Many types of chronic spinal and back pain can be lessened by radio-frequency lesioning, or a facet rhizotomy. Sufferers of conditions such as degenerative disc disease, facet arthropathy, or generalized fact disease may use this procedure to relive pain when all other pain relief methods have failed. Radio-frequency lesioning is an outpatient procedure that interrupts nerve conductions semi-permanently, usually blocking nerves for 6-9 months, during which time the patient does not feel pain in the area affected by the procedure. Radio-frequency lesioning uses a highly specialized machine to interrupt the nerve signals.
The operation takes place in a fluoroscopy room where bony landmarks are identified. This helps physicians to locate the correct nerves. Doctors apply a numbing agent to prevent discomfort when they use radio-frequency needle. Once the needle is properly positioned, a tiny electrode is inserted in the needle and electrical currents are sent through. Patients may experience a "buzzing" or "tingling" sensation, but not usually pain. The electrical currents, run by a state of the art computer, numb the nerves to the point where their ability to send pain signals are interrupted. This stops pain in the affected area and gives relief to the patient.