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What is Pulsed Radiofrequency?

Pulsed radiofrequency refers to a technique used for creating a carefully controlled electrical field around an electrode. For its use in treating pain, this electrode is usually built into the shape and size of a needle. It was first used as a pain treatment option in the mid-1990s. This technique is not the same as that used for a radiofrequency ablation procedure. The word “pulsed” means this technique applies energy to the electrode intermittently. This keeps the temperature very low, unlike the higher temperatures required for ablation.

Why is Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment Used to Treat Pain?

Scientific studies have demonstrated that the application of pulsed radiofrequency to certain nerves can block some of their ability to transmit pain. What is known thus far is that when a pulsed radiofrequency electrical field is applied to a nerve, it selectively affects only the portion of the nerve responsible for sending pain signals. Pulsed radiofrequency treatment is most effective at treating difficult types of pain that typically originate from either nerve damage or irritated nerves. In fact, many times, it seems that pulsed radiofrequency can offer additional pain relief even after other treatment options have failed, such as regular epidural injections. It is a valuable option for many patients with chronic nerve-related pain.

What Are the Benefits of Pulsed Radiofrequency?

There are many benefits of pulsed radiofrequency, including:

  • Relief from chronic pain
  • No long-term nerve damage
  • Minimally invasive treatments
  • Long-lasting results
  • No need for medication

Who Is A Good Candidate for Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment?

The best candidates for pulsed radiofrequency treatment at Southwest Spine & Sports are those who have sciatica, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, post-surgical pain, or experience other similar, painful conditions who have not had success with more conservative and conventional methods of pain management. In many cases, pulsed radiofrequency patients will have had prior epidural steroid injections and still experience significant pain. If you have any questions about your eligibility for pulsed radiofrequency treatment for pain, please get in touch with our Scottsdale, AZ team at your earliest convenience and schedule a consultation.

What Happens During the Procedure?

If a pulsed radiofrequency treatment is determined to be appropriate for you, an appointment will be made for you and your doctor at an outpatient injection facility. You may be given the option to receive some light sedation intravenously to help you relax. If sedation is used, you will be monitored closely with a heart rhythm monitor, blood pressure cuff, and blood oxygen sensing device. Local anesthetic will be used before the actual injection. The electrode is placed through the skin in the same way a typical needle would be used. Your doctor uses fluoroscopy (x-ray) to position the electrode close to the affected nerve or nerves as they exit the spine. Once the needle is positioned, a very mild amount of pulsed radiofrequency is applied to make sure the electrode is in the proper position. This may or may not cause a sensation of tingling, buzzing, or vibrating in the distribution of your typical pain. With the electrode in the proper position, the pulsed radiofrequency procedure is performed. Usually, after completion of the stimulation, a small amount of corticosteroid is injected along with local anesthetic to decrease any temporary irritation to the nerve. Then, the electrode is removed and a small bandage is placed over the injection site.

How Can Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment Help?

Scientific studies have demonstrated that the application of pulsed radiofrequency to certain nerves can block some of their ability to transmit pain.

Learn more about the Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment with this informative brochure below!

Can I Receive More Than One Treatment?

Some studies have demonstrated lasting effects beyond one year. The good news is that other studies have demonstrated beneficial effects after repeat pulsed radiofrequency procedures. You and your doctor can determine if any repeat treatments are warranted.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

You will typically be at the procedure center for about 2 hours, which includes time to check-in, preparation for the procedure, and some time spent immediately after the procedure before you are released home. The procedure itself takes approximately 30 minutes. You will need someone to drive you home.

What Are the Risks of This Procedure?

Generally speaking, this procedure is very safe. However, as with any procedure, there are risks, side effects, and the possibility of complications. The most common side effect is pain, which is temporary. There is also occasional bruising or skin discoloration at the injection site. Because the intention is to have the electrode close to the nerve root, this could cause a slight increase in pain with possible symptoms extending into the limb. It is very unlikely, but there could be permanent nerve damage. There is a slight possibility of developing an infection. If this were to occur, it could require the use of antibiotics. Additionally, if the infection were severe, it could require intravenous antibiotics, hospitalization, and possible surgery. Very rare complications may include known problems from repetitive steroid use, reaction to the injected medications causing respiratory or cardiac compromise, as well as seizures. Death is even a possibility, as with any invasive seizure, although this is exceedingly rare. Steroid medications have been associated with certain types of bone damage but this is usually limited to uses of high doses or frequent exposure.

Find Relief From Chronic Pain

If you have problems with pain and are considering pulsed radiofrequency, it is important to meet with a medical professional to assess the risks versus the benefits of this technique. A trusted provider at Southwest Spine and Sports can examine your situation more thoroughly to determine if this procedure is right for your needs. Call our office in Scottsdale, AZ and see why so many people come to us for their health care needs. We look forward to helping you get relief.

Learn more about Pulsed Radiofrequency therapy with this informative brochure below!


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Pulsed Radiofrequency FAQs

No, most patients don’t find a pulsed radiofrequency treatment painful or uncomfortable. The procedure does involve injections — so you may feel some initial discomfort. The local anesthetic and intravenous sedation are given to make you feel as comfortable as possible. As the electrode is positioned, you may feel some of your typical symptoms. During the application of the pulsed radiofrequency treatment, you may feel some pulsating in your limb or sensory changes in the distribution of your usual pain.

The number of treatments in your personalized program will depend on your health, condition, and treatment goals. During your consultation at Southwest Spine and Sports, we will examine you, go over your medical history, and listen to your concerns to help you create the perfect plan to achieve your goals. After your plan is finalized, we will have an estimated number of sessions. Most patients typically see the best results with a series of treatment sessions.

You may experience numbness or relief from your typical pain for up to six hours after the injection. This is due to the use of the local anesthetic. The beneficial effects of the steroid injection usually begin 2 – 4 days after the injection. Relief from the pulsed radiofrequency treatment may take up to several weeks to demonstrate a full effect, and the onset is usually subtle, becoming progressively better.

During pulsed radiofrequency treatment, a needle electrode is inserted near the affected nerves, and pulsed radiofrequency energy is delivered to modulate pain signals.

Pulsated radiofrequency treatment is considered safe when performed by trained professionals like those at Southwest Spine & Sports. It carries fewer risks compared to continuous RF procedures.

Pain relief can vary among individuals. Some patients may experience immediate relief, while others may notice improvement over several weeks.

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