Radiofrequency Neurotomy

Radiofrequency neurotomy is a treatment for pain in the:

  • Back
  • Neck
  • Sacroiliac joint (between the pelvis and spine)
  • Shoulder
  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Pelvis

Radiofrequency neurotomy provides pain relief without the use of steroids. Instead, it treats pain with heat generated by radio waves.

First, needles are used to target the nerves that cause pain. Then, heat energy is used to temporarily stop the pain signals.

Pulsed radiofrequency neurotomy is a type of radiofrequency neurotomy. It generates less energy and maintains the nature of the nerve. It is used more often in nerves that are close to sensitive parts of the body.

You will have this procedure in the Northwestern Medicine Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Clinic.

What to Expect During Radiofrequency Neurotomy

During the procedure:

  • Your physician will numb your nerves with a small amount of local anesthetic.
  • They will check to see if the targeted nerve is the correct source of pain.
  • Once you feel pain relief, your physician will use needles to reach the nerve.
  • Using radio waves, heat is applied to the nerves. This keeps them from functioning temporarily, so they do not send pain signals to your brain.

You can expect pain relief in 2 to 4 weeks after the procedure. It often lasts for 6 months. It can be repeated as needed.

Common side effects include:

  • Temporary numbness
  • Skin irritation (a sunburn-like feeling)
  • Pain

Rare complications are bleeding, infection and nerve damage.