What is RF Ablation?

What is Radio Frequency Ablation?

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Editorial Team - everything RF

Nov 19, 2020

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure that is used to remove or ablate tissues and nerves in the human body. This procedure uses radio waves (usually in the range from 350 to 500 kHz) to ablate tissues. The radio waves generate a small electric current which heats up tissues or nerves in a desired area, thereby removing them. It generally requires RF generators to generate an output power of 150 – 250 W. The procedure is usually conducted in the outpatient department and is a one-day procedure, which means it does not require patients to be admitted in the hospital.

Ablation is removal or destruction of material from an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes.

Radio Frequency Ablation is used to help patients with chronic neck pain, back pain or pain induced by arthritis. This procedure is also used to treat tumours in lungs, liver, kidney, bones as well as some other body parts. Although RFA does not require patients to be admitted in hospitals, treating tumours can require a brief hospital stay for better supervision and care.

As mentioned earlier, RFA works by heating tissues in the area where we want the pain to reduce. By generating heat in the area, nerves and tissues get ablated which eliminates the ability to transmit pain signals to the brain. The doctor inserts a small needle in the general area of treatment and uses a CT scan or ultrasound to guide the needle to the exact area. Then a micro-electrode is inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. The tissues are heated up to 50 – 100°C for at least 4-6 minutes, however the duration of exposure to heat may vary according to requirements.

This procedure is being increasingly used to doctors to provide pain relief because of its documented benefits as compared to other methods. Radio frequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure which does not require patients to be hospitalized. Another benefit is that this procedure has very few side effects. Main side effects of RFA are mild bruise, swelling and bleeding at the area of treatment which usually go away after a few days. Radio frequency ablation targets very specific nerves and tissues which leads to negligible collateral damage in nearby areas. The procedure usually provides pain relief for 5-15 months or even years and is effective in more than 70% of patients.

NOTE: Like any other medical procedure, RFA is not recommended for everyone and the patient must consult a doctor for a definitive and safe diagnosis.