What is a Radiofrequency Ablation?



Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that can help manage and provide lasting relief to multiple pain syndromes, the most common of these is arthritic facet joints. The RFA is very safe and can be used for the Cervical, thoracic, and lumbar parts of the spine.  The RFA is a technique that uses heat to disable sensory nerves which are the pain-transmitting nerves in the spine.  When the heat is applied it shuts off the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

How does a Radiofrequency Ablation relieve my pain?

The Radiofrequency ablation is able to relieve pain by using heat to disable the pain-transmitting nerves, when the sensory nerves undergo this heat treatment they stop transmitting pain to the brain.

What Can I expect during and after this procedure?


  • The procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes
  • The patient lies flat on his/her abdomen
  • The area of the injection is cleaned and numbed with lidocaine
  • The patient is put under with a light sedation
  • Using live X-Ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance, the physician inserts an electrode towards the (facet joint) medial or lateral nerve branch (sacroiliac joint)
  • Once placement is confirmed, a high-frequency electrical current is passed through the electrode, heating up and burning the sensory nerve.


  • The patient is usually monitored for 15-30 minutes before being discharged.
  • The patient must have a driver
  • Patients are usually asked to rest the day of the injections
  • Normal activities can be typically resumed within 24-48 hours following the injection
  • Patients can start feeling relief 2-4 weeks after the procedure and in some cases it can take up to 6-8 weeks to feel the full effects of the RFA.

Better than Laser Spine Surgery! *

– Smaller Needle

– Less Invasive

– Covered by most insurance

*results vary

Dr. Asraf Hanna and Janet Helm featured on CBS news March 2016

Dr. Asraf Hanna performs an RFA surgery on a patient at the Florida Spine Institute in Clearwater, Florida

Prior to seeing Dr. Hanna, Mary Sullivan had immense pain and could not move her neck. Dr. Hanna performed a Radiofrequency Ablation treatment that reduced Mary’s pain and allowed her to move freely and gave her mobility.

Additional Info on RFA

Pain Management

RFA, or rhizotomy, is sometimes used to treat severe chronic pain in the lower (lumbar) back, where radio frequency waves are used to produce heat on specifically identified nerves surrounding the facet joints on either side of the lumbar spine. By generating heat around the nerve, its ability to transmit pain signals to the brain is destroyed, thus ablating the nerve. The nerves to be ablated are identified through injections of local anesthesia (such as lidocaine) prior to the RFA procedure. If thelocal anesthesia injections provide temporary pain relief, then RFA is performed on the nerve(s) that responded well to the injections. RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that can usually be done in day-surgery clinics, going home shortly after completion of the procedure. The patient is awake during the procedure, so risks associated with general anesthesia are avoided. An intravenous line may be inserted so that mild sedatives can be administered. The major drawback for this procedure is that nerves regenerate over time, so the pain relief achieved lasts for only a short duration (6–24 months[19]) in most patients.