Question: Radiofrequency Heat for Spinal Stenosis?

My 90 year old mother suffers from spinal stenosis. A recent Wall Street Journal article mentions that in patients with back pain due to arthritis, doctors are using radio-frequency heat to deaden nerves.

Do you know where this procedure is being performed? I would take her anywhere this is being done, as she is not a candidate for surgery.

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Doctor’s Response: Radiofrequency Rhizotomy May Not Be Useful

If she has spinal stenosis and her pain is mainly from the stenosis, then the radiofrequency rhizotomy would not be useful for her. If her pain is from osteoarthritis of the facet joints, she may be a candidate. It is critical to first determine which condition is the actual cause of the pain or the treatment won’t be effective.

For a radiofrequency rhizotomy, usually three separate injections into the facet joint would first be performed to see if injection with Lidocaine would be useful. If it gives her consistent, temporary relief of her pain, then the radiofrequency rhizotomy may be an option.

Unfortunately, it only helps 30-40% of patients and the pain relief is often temporary (6-12 months). It is actually an old treatment, and any spine clinic or center would probably be able to do it for her.

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.