History of RF Ablation Therapy for Chronic Pain

Source: Medscape

The radiofrequency ablation procedure was first developed in 1931 with the purpose of treating trigeminal neuralgia, which is a condition that causes intense and sharp facial pain. The initial use of radiofrequency ablation to target the pain associated with trigeminal nerve was successful. Over the past 15 years, radiofrequency ablation has grown in popularity due to the increasing evidence indicating that it is a safe and effective way to treat chronic pain. Patients and medical practitioners alike are equally excited about the newly developed attention. 

Several studies have shown that the type of interrupted nerve function associated with radiofrequency ablation may last up to six months to a full year longer than other conventional pain treatment therapies. Coupled with other promising advantages, including the fact that it can be done as an outpatient procedure, its precise needle insertion technique, and the ability to repeat treatments if needed, radiofrequency ablation has become a game changer for the way chronic pain is treated. 

Both continuous and pulsing types of radiofrequency ablation have proven to be effective at interrupting the pain signals from a particular nerve ending to the brain, eliminating the interpretation of pain. Additionally, research shows that the heating method used in radiofrequency ablation has an important role in reducing pain. The electric currents sent to the nerve have also been shown to initiate changes in the gene expressions of neurons mediating pain pathway signals. 

Radiofrequency ablation can be used to treat many different forms of chronic pain; however, it is most commonly utilized in the treatment of facet joint pain, or the connective bones in the spinal column referred to as vertebrae. When the nerves located in the facet joints become damaged or inflamed, they send pain signals to the brain. As this pain often becomes chronic, ablation is needed to destroy the medial branch nerves that send the pain signals. This procedure has been used for years to treat pain in the cervical facets, pain due to arthritis, and pain in the lower back.

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