Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure to treat various conditions such as removing cancers and nodules, chronic venous insufficiency, relief from neck pain, or chronic back pain. The technique is minimally invasive and uses radio waves to heat the cells and produce the desired results. RFA has proved to provide long-lasting relief from chronic pains and is also used when other treatment options are unsuccessful.
Alternate Name For Radiofrequency Ablation
Cancers, nodules, arthritic joints in the body
How is Radiofrequency Ablation Performed?
RFA can be performed with or without sedative depending upon the location, age of the patient, and overall health of the patient. A sedative is given intravenously if required. The site for RFA is sterilized and cleaned properly to avoid the risk of any infection. Anaesthesia (general or local) is given to block the pain and sensation.
The surgeon will insert the RFA needle and might use an X-ray (fluoroscopy) to guide the placement of the needle in the affected area. Then, the electromagnetic electrode is inserted through the needle into the affected site. Once the needle has reached the site, targeted radiofrequency waves are sent to heal the affected area and achieve the desired results such as killing the cancer cells, treating thyroid nodules, or relieving pain.
Preparation For Radiofrequency Ablation
Before the treatment, you will undergo various blood tests including bleeding time/clotting time to determine if you are suitable for the procedure. Moreover, depending upon the location of the RFA, you might need to undergo pre-anaesthesia check-ups or anaesthesia sensitivity testing.
Diet before the procedure: Make sure not to eat at least 6 hours before the procedure to avoid the risk of any complications.
Medications: You need to take your medications before the procedure in consultation with your surgeon. Don’t take aspirin or any other drugs that could affect bleeding or clotting time.
You should reach the hospital at least 3-4 hours in advance as you will be kept under observation for some time, before the procedure.
Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure Type
Follow-up care will vary depending upon the type of treatment and location of the ablation. However, the following points should be taken care of:
- Take proper rest as recommended by your doctor and do not overexert yourself. Make sure to adhere to the follow-up plan with your surgeon to assess the recovery.
- You can start with your routine activities the following day. However, avoid strenuous exercises such as running or lifting weights for a few weeks while you build stamina.
- Take your medications including painkillers or antibiotics as prescribed. If you experience unexplained pain or any other side effects, seek medical attention.
Risks For Radiofrequency Ablation
RFA is a safe technique and is associated with very few potential side effects. However, the following risks could be associated with the procedure:
- Bleeding: The procedure can lead to bleeding from the incision site, even though the chances are uncommon.
- Infection:Incision site infection could occur in a few cases, and you might need antibiotic treatment following the procedure.
In addition, RFA could be associated with transient side effects such as:
- Swelling at the incision site
- Bruising at the incision site
- Weakness in legs
- Feeling of numbness in legs
Recovery From Radiofrequency Ablation
Depending on the area treated, you will be transferred to the recovery room for a few hours. Once your vital signs have stabilized, you will be shifted to a hospital room/ward or discharged in case of an outpatient procedure.
Although you can return to your normal activities immediately or within a couple of days, the recovery can take from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the condition treated. While you are in recovery mode, avoid heavy-duty work for a few weeks that could stress your body. Getting regular follow-ups done per the schedule is also crucial to achieving a complication-free recovery.