What’s a Rhizotomy?
Rhizotomy, also known as radiofrequency rhizotomy or nerve ablation, is a medical procedure that involves selectively damaging or disabling specific nerve roots to alleviate chronic pain. It is commonly used to treat conditions where nerve pain is originating from the spine, such as facet joint pain, sacroiliac joint pain, and certain types of neuralgia. Rhizotomy aims to interrupt the transmission of pain signals from the affected nerves to the brain.
During a rhizotomy procedure:
- Local Anesthesia: The area around the targeted nerve root is numbed using a local anesthetic.
- Needle Placement: A thin needle or electrode is inserted near the nerve root using imaging guidance (such as fluoroscopy).
- Nerve Stimulation: Mild electrical stimulation is applied through the electrode to identify the exact location of the target nerve and confirm its relationship to the patient’s pain.
- Nerve Ablation: Once the target nerve is confirmed, radiofrequency energy, heat, or a chemical agent is used to damage or disable the nerve. This disrupts its ability to transmit pain signals.
- Post-Procedure: After the procedure, the electrode is removed, and the patient is monitored for a short time before being discharged.
Rhizotomy is used to treat various chronic pain conditions, including:
- Facet Joint Pain: Rhizotomy can target the medial branch nerves that transmit pain signals from the facet joints in the spine.
- Sacroiliac Joint Pain: It can alleviate pain from the sacroiliac joints that connect the spine to the pelvis.
- Neuralgia: Certain types of neuralgia, such as trigeminal neuralgia or occipital neuralgia, can be treated with rhizotomy.
- Pain Relief: Rhizotomy can provide effective and long-lasting pain relief for many patients, allowing them to resume normal activities.
- Minimally Invasive: Rhizotomy is performed using small incisions and local anesthesia, reducing the risk of complications and minimizing recovery time.
- Non-Destructive: Unlike surgical procedures, rhizotomy only disrupts nerve conduction without removing tissue.
- Temporary Relief: While rhizotomy can provide significant pain relief, the effects are not always permanent and may require repeat procedures over time.
- Response Varies: Individual responses to rhizotomy can vary, and not all patients experience the same degree of relief.
- Risks: Potential risks include infection, bleeding, nerve injury, and temporary discomfort at the procedure site.
Before undergoing rhizotomy, it’s important to have a thorough discussion with a healthcare provider who specializes in pain management. They can assess your condition, discuss potential benefits and risks, and determine if rhizotomy is an appropriate treatment option for your specific pain condition.
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