The destruction (also called ablation) of nerves is a method that may be used
to reduce certain kinds of
chronic pain by preventing transmission of pain
signals. It is a safe procedure in which a portion of nerve tissue is destroyed or removed to
cause an interruption in pain signals and reduce pain in that area. Nerve ablation can be done in different ways. For example, it can be done using heat, cold, or chemicals. What the procedure is called depends on how it is done. For example, it may be called radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation, neurotomy, or rhizotomy.
doctor will first identify the nerve or nerves that are sending pain signals to
your brain. You will have a test that uses a nerve block, which numbs specific nerves, to help your doctor find the nerves that are causing your pain.
During the procedure, you may have X-rays to pinpoint where to put the medical tool that will be used. After you receive a
local anesthetic, the doctor places the medical tool
under your skin through which the nerve tissue is removed or destroyed. Depending on how the ablation is done, it may cause you to feel a buzzing or tingling sensation. The damage to your nerves blocks them from sending pain signals to your brain. But
the nerve often tries to grow back. If it does, the results are only temporary
and usually last for around 6 to 9 months.
This procedure is done
in an operating room and takes between 20 minutes to 1 hour or longer depending
on how many, and which, nerves are being blocked. If the nerve that is blocked
is not the nerve that is causing the pain, your pain will not be
Nerve ablation is not effective for everyone. If
you have not responded well to other treatment, such as diagnostic local
nerve blocks, nerve ablation will probably
not work for you.
Other Works Consulted
Shah RV, et al. (2003). Interventions in chronic pain
management. 2. New frontiers: Invasive nonsurgical interventions.
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 84(3,
Suppl 1): S39–S44.
January 9, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
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