A radio frequency neurotomy interrupts the sensory nerve supply to the involved facet joint through the use of thermal denervation. After a local skin anesthetic is applied, the physician uses fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance to place special radio frequency needles alongside the nerves that supply the inflamed joint.
After testing to ensure that the needle is in the correct position, thermal energy is applied and the nerve is deadened. Effective for many months to years, the goal of the radio frequency procedure is to prolong the relief sustained by facet joint injections. Radio frequency neurotomy is only performed once the facet joints have been precisely identified as a source of pain.