Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment

Pulsed radiofrequency treatment involves passing short bursts of current through the nerves in the area of pain. The aim is to modify overactive nerves to reduce pain without causing damage to the nerve.
The procedure is performed under X-ray guidance or ultrasound guidance. It is used in the treatment of back pain, headaches (occipital neuralgia), shoulder pain and other localized nerve pains.

Before the procedure:

  • Treatment will take place as an outpatient procedure. 
  • Your stay may be up to 2-4 hours. Before any treatment begins you will need to provide assurance that someone is able to drive you home after the injections.
  • The doctor will ask you to sign a consent form prior to the procedure if this has not already been done at your previous appointment.
  • You will be given the opportunity to ask questions.
  • You may be asked to change in to a theatre gown and a nurse will record your pulse and blood pressure.

The procedure:

  • The nurse will go through a safety check list.
  • The procedure will be carried out under x-ray screening or ultrasound guidance so that the doctor can identify the correct nerve to be treated.
  • The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic. This means that the doctor will inject numbing medication in to the skin first to minimize the pain experienced during the procedure. Please note that you will be awake during the procedure.
  • Once you are in the correct position the doctor will clean the painful area with antiseptic solution that can feel very cold.
  • The needle is inserted after numbing the skin with local anesthetic. The correct position is checked by 2 tests:
  • Sensory: You may feel tightness, pressure or tingling in the area of injection
  • Motor: You may feel some throbbing in the area of injection

It is essential that you report the sensations accurately and promptly when asked. If you feel any throbbing in the arm or leg or feel no sensation at all, the probe will be repositioned. When the probe is in the correct place, the treatment with pulsed radiofrequency current is carried out for up to 120 seconds. Local anaesthetic is injected before treatment with pulsed radiofrequency current to reduce discomfort from the procedure. The whole procedure can take up to 30 minutes but some times longer as it can occasionally be tricky to accurately locate the small nerves.

After the procedure:

  • You will be taken to the recovery area where the nursing staff will observe you.
  • You can sit up and have a drink provided you are not light headed.
  • Your pulse and blood pressure will be checked.
  • When the nursing staff are happy with your progress you will be asked to get dressed. You will be given a discharge leaflet before you go home.

Please ensure that you have arranged for someone to drive you home after the procedure as failure to do so may result in cancellation of your procedure.
Side effects from treatment:

  • Some patients may experience pain and localized tenderness at the site of injection. This will usually settle over the next few days.
  • There may be some bruising over the site of the injection.

What to expect afterwards:

  • You may experience temporary soreness and ache at the site of injection.
  • The back pain may initially get worse before you notice any benefit from the injection.
  • It may be a few weeks before you notice any benefit.
  • It is important to note that some patients may not get the desired benefit from the injection treatment.
  • You should continue to take your regular pain medications. You can increase or reduce the pain killers depending on the response to the injection treatment but it is best to take advice from your doctor.
  • You should remain active after the procedure but avoid strenuous activity for 48 to 72 hours.
  • Once you start noticing the benefits from the injections you should gently increase the level of your exercise.
  • Try to pace your activities so that you do not over do things on a good day and end up paying for it in terms of pain.

Follow up:

  • This will be arranged when you come for the injection treatment.

Check list for you:

  • Bring a list of all your current medications (not just pain killers). If you are on inhalers for asthma please bring them with you.
  •  Please inform the doctor if you are taking any medication that thins your blood (anti coagulants).
  • Continue taking your medications on the treatment day unless you have been told otherwise.
  • If there is any possibility you may be pregnant please inform the doctor or the nurse.
  • Please bring your glasses/ hear aids with you.
  • You may eat and drink normally before the procedure provided you are not booked to have the procedure under sedation.
  • Make sure that you have arranged for someone to drive you home after the procedure as you are not allowed to drive  for up to 24 hours after the injection.

Additional information:

  • If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to contact us.