Also referred to as radiofrequency rhizotomy, lumbar facet radiofrequency neurotomy is a procedure used to reduce or eliminate pain in damaged facet joints of the lumbar spine. Through the use of radiofrequency energy, pain signals from the damaged nerve are disrupted, preventing the lumbar branch nerve from transmitting pain signals to the brain. Lumbar facet radiofrequency neurotomy can be used to treat pain in the lower back and legs. Patients experiencing pain associated with joint dysfunctions, such as lumbar degenerative disc disease or lumbar facet joint syndrome, may find relief from lumbar facet radiofrequency neurotomy.
During the procedure, the patient is injected with a local anesthetic at the site of the damaged facet joint. This numbs the area in order to provide the patient with a more comfortable procedural experience. Once numbed, the site is injected with a contrast dye, allowing the physician to guide a radiofrequency electrode into the spine. In addition to the dye injections, the physician will also place a cannula– a tube-like needle filled with dye– into each affected lumbar branch nerve. This allows the physician to test each nerve individually, pinpointing the exact source of pain. The electrode effectively cauterizes the nerve, preventing it from sending further signals to the brain.
Though many experience some discomfort for a few days after the procedure, patients can expect to return to normal activities about two days the lumbar facet radiofrequency neurotomy.