Genicular Nerve Ablation

Osteoarthritis in the knee is the most common joint disease in the world. Up to 1 in 4 adults will develop knee pain from age or injury-related breakdown of cartilage in the knee joint.

When pain is severe, you have a harder time staying active and exercising. Inactivity can make you more likely to fall and have injuries.

Treatment for knee pain may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing or orthotics
  • Numbing medications on the skin
  • Acupuncture
  • Injection

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) may help relieve pain, but numerous studies have shown that chronic NSAID use in older adults can lead to liver, kidney or cardiovascular problems.

When these treatments fail, many patients consider a total joint replacement. However, not everyone is a candidate for this surgery. Instead, genicular nerve ablation may be considered.

Genicular nerve ablation is a method to treat chronic knee pain using controlled radiofrequency energy. Through this treatment, your physician directs heat at specific parts of the knee. The heat “knocks out” the sensory nerves around the knee that send pain signals to the brain.

Before you have this procedure, your physician will do a “test block” with a numbing medication to block the nerves of the knee. This will allow you to feel how much pain relief you would have from radiofrequency ablation. Then, you can decide whether to have the procedure.

Several controlled studies have shown radiofrequency ablation to be effective in carefully selected patients. In one study, nearly 3 in 4 patients who had radiofrequency ablation reported their knee pain dropped by more than half 6 months after the procedure.

Radiofrequency ablation usually takes about 30 minutes per knee. You will likely need almost no recovery time.

You could have pain relief within a few weeks of the procedure. Pain relief lasts 6 to 12 months in most patients. Your physician can repeat this procedure if pain returns.