I just had my Radio frequency ablation, lumbar – 3 levels, both sides.
Some of you may be eventually considering this procedure for your pain so I decided to try to document my experience for you in case it helps with your decision.
I was originally very apprehensive about this procedure. I had 2 diagnostic nerve blocks that indicated that I was a reasonably good candidate. I had heard some not-so-good accounts of rf ablations so I wasn’t exactly sure how I would react. I had the ablation done about 6 hours ago. So this is how I’m doing right now……
I am currently not feeling any particular pain or discomfort. I am using ice as my post-procedure recommends. I am still just a little groggy. I declined sedation via iv, and instead I took my normal 2 xanax anti anxiety pills just prior to the procedure. They also give me a rubber stress ball to squeeze – I love these things! I just squeeze away when I feel any discomfort.
Rather than focus on apprehension and fear, I decided to work on my mental attitude and approach this in a more “academic interest” vein. I found it generally to be a very easy and minimally painful procedure which lasted about 45 minutes. So here’s the way it went…..
It had already been determined that they planned on doing all 6 facet nerves – 3 per side. The first thing that they did was to administer a little deadening agent to all 3 facets on both sides. The deadening felt just like it felt during the diagnostic tests. Then they tested the 6 individual facet nerves, one by one, with a mild electrical stimulation. It almost reminded me of the feeling you get from a tens unit. They asked me to tell them the second I felt anything. When I said that I felt the stimulation, they turned it up a bit and asked if I could tell it was getting stronger. Then on to the next facet nerve to repeat the test. 4 out of the six reacted very strongly to the electrical prod which means we hit the right ones. There are 2 more, each located close to my hardware and apparently it is very common to get less response from those because they have been already "shredded" by the surgery. Nevertheless, they still were able to zap them - just took a little more testing. They do the entire procedure under fluoroscopy (sp?) so they can see exactly what they are touching. No guesswork!
So at this point, all nerves had been tested and confirmed. The next thing they did was to burn them, one by one. I never even felt them doing that because they had been numbed with the deadening agent. I was shocked when they said they were through because I couldn’t feel it.
Too bad I don't have a blackberry or else I would have tweeted the entire procedure to other people who are facing the same procedure, many with a great deal of trepidation. Once I decided to look at this procedure from the perspective of intellectual curiosity rather than with fear, I had absolutely no problem with it. Yes, there were a couple of "owie" moments but I refused to internalize it. I just squeezed my little stress ball.
(I realized that I had a negative attitude yesterday so I made up my mind to turn it around and not let my "fear" get the better of me.)
So the next step is to see how I feel over the coming weeks. I will continue to post if there is enough interest for me to continue to “report in.” My doc has told me more than once that I can expect discomfort for up to a couple of weeks as the nerves die. He wants me to be patient and see how I feel at the 6 week level which is apparently when optimum pain relieve if achieved if the procedure works. So we’ll see….my thinking is that I have nothing to lose at this point and everything to gain.
Sorry for the long post. PM me if you have more questions! Hope I did a pretty complete job of giving you a good idea of what to expect for those of you who are considering this procedure. Kathy