Lumbar ablation (or radiofrequency ablation) is a commonly used procedure performed by pain specialists. It is a pain-relieving option for many individuals who are dealing with debilitating lower back pain. The electromagnetic waves used in this procedure work to create heat energy, which is then delivered to the nerves that carry pain impulses, destroying the nerves of the medial branches and relieving the pain.
Why use lumbar ablation?
By addressing these pain-carrying nerves, spine interventional pain doctors can provide a patient with a longer stretch of pain relief than that which would be offered by other procedures such as injections or even nerve blocks. Chances are that the patients you’re considering for treatment with radiofrequency ablation have already received treatments that may have included steroid injections, facet join injections, or some sort of sympathetic nerve block. If the patient had only very temporary pain relief from those, you can offer them the possibility of a longer stint without pain by using the lumbar ablation, perhaps as long as a year.
Many types of conditions respond well to radiofrequency ablation. These include spondylosis, chronic spinal pain, post-surgery spine pain, and post-traumatic pain from accidents that include injuries such as whiplash or seat belt-related injuries.
Lumbar ablation involves inserting a thin needle or radiofrequency cannula, guided by live x-ray, near the nerves that are to be addressed. Once the cannula is determined to be in the correct position, electric current passes into the surrounding tissues and the target nerve is destroyed. The procedure is fairly short and generally painless. (Patients can be given a mild sedative if necessary but deep sedation will not be used.)
Of course, that’s the short explanation. While not every patient wants to know all the particulars of the procedure you’ll be performing, many individuals prefer to know what will happen during ablation. Knowledge eases their mind and reduces anxiety or panic. An explanation of the procedure (and its results) by you – their doctor – will help them recognize that this is the right thing for them.
To do this, it’s time to pull out your spine models. Hopefully, you own a well-crafted, fully-movable 3D model such as the ones made by Dynamic Disc Designs (ddd). These unique models are the best available for explaining procedures such as lumbar ablation.
With the use of models like ddd’s popular Medial Branch Model, doctors can begin by demonstrating the patient’s facet pain condition and how it affects the spine, and then can proceed with an explanation of how the ablation will help. With this ultra-detailed model, spine specialists can also talk about neo-innervation and demonstrate the reasons for chronic pain and how the ablation will assist in its relief from the facet joints. The patient can hold this pliable model in their hands and move the parts, allowing them a better understanding of what’s causing their discomfort because they can literally “see” the spine.
Dynamic Disc Designs offers a variety of lumbar models, all highly-detailed yet simple enough for the layperson to understand. Models may be purchased individually or in a bundle, according to the needs of the specialist. (Discounts apply when models are purchased in multiples.)
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