Radio Frequency Ablation (Rhizotomy Lumbar, Thoracic, Cervical)

Radio frequency ablations, or rhizotomies, are procedures during which the nerves in a facet joint are severed using radiofrequency waves in order to decrease back pain.

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Provider List

1144 North 28th Street
Billings, MT 59101
(406) 237-5900

When Procedure is Used

Prior to going in for a radio frequency ablation, patients are given a medial branch block in order to diagnose the source of their back pain. If a medial branch block is effective, radio frequency ablation will be more likely to decrease or eliminate pain originating in the facet joints, which are joints along the spine that allow the spine to be flexible. Prior to being given a medial branch block and undergoing radio frequency ablation, you will also likely have tried pain relief medications and physical therapy. If these methods have helped manage the pain and if a medial branch block is effective, you may be a good candidate for radio frequency ablation.

During Surgery

You will be given a mild sedative prior to having radio frequency ablation, and your doctor will use a local anesthetic at the site of the procedure. Similar to a medial branch block procedure, the surgeon will utilize fluoroscopy, or guided x-ray, to place a thin hollow needle near the nerve in your facet joint. A current of radiofrequency passes through the needle and burns the nerve to prevent it from communicating pain signals to your brain. The procedure is uncomfortable but not particularly painful, and you will mostly feel pressure as the surgeon inserts and removes needles.


The risk of complications is very low, however, potential risks might include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to medication


  • minimally invasive pain relief that can last six months to a year or longer

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