The Background To Using Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment As A Cervical Facet Joint Denervation Procedure

The Background To Using Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment As A Cervical Facet Joint Denervation Procedure


Often, when patients are recommended to have a pulsed radiofrequency treatment as a means of ensuring that the nerves near the cervical facet joints stop sending pain signals to the brain, they can be curious about the technique and procedure and many have not heard of the technique.


Patients often ask if this is a new and pioneering technique or whether it has been fully tested. They may even want to know how the technique was developed and how it actually works in practice.


In fact the history of pulsed radio frequency treatment is in some ways quite recent, since the technology to deliver pulsed radiofrequency has only been available since the 20th Century. But in other ways the history of using radiofrequency can be traced back to the days of ancient Greek and Chinese civilisations.


The crux of pulsed radiofrequency is the electrical current that is produced by a radiowave. This heats up the nerve involved to a temperature that is not higher than 42º C. This electrical current is then delivered in short pulses (hence the name) which effectively allows the heat to dissipate between the blasts or pulses of electrical current.


Historical Roots Of Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment


This creation of an electromagnetic field may be a recent medical innovation in terms of Western medicine, with pulsed radiofrequency having been first tried in the United States in the 1970’s, but in fact the ancient Greeks and the Chinese were the first to recognise the effect that electricity in various forms, could have on the brain and the nerves etc. 


Thus in the 1930’s when clinicians first started to become aware of the potential for radiofrequency, it was only a logical progression from the early scientific discoveries made within these early civilisations.


Initially radiofrequency was developed as a way of creating heat lesions, which effectively heated up the nerve cells and then a lesion was formed, which meant that the nerve was effectively destroyed.


Although the use of radiofrequency as a denervation technique was then developed, the main problem with this technique was that it kills off the nerves and so this is a more invasive technique.


When the concept of pulsed radiofrequency was initially discovered, the benefits became instantly apparent; the nerve was not killed off, so the patient could experience long term pain relief, without having to sacrifice the nerve!


A Safe Procedure


The use of pulsed radiofrequency is therefore much safer than the standard radiofrequency technique and as such is more favoured by clinicians and patients alike. It is also a procedure that is low risk in terms of any complications and side effects and patients can gain up to 2 years of pain free living again, with almost immediate pain relief felt after the procedure has been carried out.


In some instances there may be a slight feeling of discomfort after a few days, which is created by the nerves that have been ‘stunned’ readjusting, but generally pain relief is instant and has a good outcome in terms of duration.

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