The goal for the procedure is to heat the tiny nerve branches that supply the painful facet joints or stress fracture enough so that they do not work. This amounts to “cutting” the nerves to the joints, although only heat is used. Needles are positioned close to the target nerves and a small electrical current from the radiofrequency lesion generator is passed through the needle to heat the target nerves. The doctor controls the amount of heat very precisely, using the radiofrequency lesion generator machine. The nerves are heated for about 1 minute. The needles are then withdrawn and the procedure is over.
How is the Procedure performed?
Since nerves cannot be seen on x-ray, the needles are positioned using bone landmarks that indicate where the nerves usually are. Fluoroscopy (x-ray) is used to identify those bony landmarks, and you will receive a small amount of x-ray during the procedure as the doctors positions the needles (less than a chest x-ray dose). A small test current is passed through the needle to be sure it is close to the target nerve. You will feel a twitch of the back muscles when this is done, this is not painful. A local anesthetic is injected to confirm proper placement.