Injuries to the neck can be very serious, especially because there are so many nerves and nerve endings that pass through the neck and spinal column affecting other parts of the body.

If you are scheduled for radiofrequency ablation or if your doctor has mentioned it, read on so you can understand more about how the procedure works and what you may be able to expect.

Understanding RFA: shutterstock_214092379

Ablation refers to the surgical removal of body tissue or of “an organ, structure, or part, or the melting or wearing away of an expendable part.”  (taken, in part, from

“Radiofrequency waves are electromagnetic waves which travel at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/s). Radiofrequency Energy is a type of heat energy that is created by a special generator at very high or super high frequencies. With the use of this specialized generator, heat energy is created and delivered with precision to target nerves that carry pain impulses. The resulting “lesion” involves a spherical area of tissue destruction at the tip of the RF needle that can include pain-carrying nerves. “ (taken from

“Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), also known as rhizotomy, is one of the newest pain control techniques. In this non-surgical procedure, radiofrequency waves are delivered to certain nerves, with the goal of interrupting pain signals to the brain.”  (taken from

The RFA procedure: 

“Once a structure has been determined to be a pain generator, its nerve supply is targeted for interruption. A small insulated needle or RF cannula is positioned next to these nerves with fluoroscopic guidance (live video X-Ray). Your doctor knows where to place the RF cannula because he is an expert in anatomy. The shaft of this cannula except for the last 5 to 10 mm is covered with a protective insulation so that the electric current only passes into the surrounding tissues from the very tip of the cannula. When the cannula appears to be in good position, the doctor may perform a test and release a small amount of electric current through the needle tip at two different frequencies. This test helps to confirm that the cannula tip is in close proximity to the target nerve and that it is not near any other nerve. After a successful test confirms good cannula tip position, a local anesthetic is injected to numb the area. The RF generator is then used to heat the cannula tip for up to 90 seconds, and thus the target nerve is destroyed.”   (taken from

The purpose of RFA: 

“Radiofrequency ablation/lesioning is a procedure used to provide longer term pain relief than that provided by simple injections or nerve blocks. Many patients who are being considered for this procedure have already undergone simple injection techniques like Epidural Steroid Injection, Facet Joint Injection, Sympathetic Nerve Blocks, or other nerve blocks with pain relief that is less prolonged than desired. By selectively destroying nerves that carry pain impulses, the painful structure can be effectively denervated and the pain reduced or eliminated for anywhere from a few months to up to 12 months”.  (taken from

I am always in awe of the things doctors can do – funneling electromagnetic waves that travel at the speed of light to a pin pointed location on a patient’s body to relieve their pain!  Amazing!  Modern medicine can be such a wonderful thing!

If you have a neck injury as the result of a work place accident or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.


Michele Lewane, Esq.