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Radiofrequency neurotomy is a type of procedure in which a heat lesion is created on certain nerves with the goal of interrupting the pain signals to the brain, thus eliminating pain in the facet joint (connecting the vertebrae) or sacroiliac joint (connecting the bones of the pelvis).

A medial branch neurotomy affects the nerves carrying pain from the facet joints, and a lateral branch neurotomy affects nerves that carry pain from the sacroiliac joints.

In radiofrequency neurotomy, radio waves are delivered to targeted nerves by needles inserted through the skin above the spine. Imaging scans, such as ultrasound, are used during radiofrequency neurotomy to help position the needles precisely.

These medial or lateral branch nerves do not control any muscles or sensation in the arms or legs so there is no danger of negatively affecting those areas. The medial branch nerves do control small muscles in the neck and mid or low back, but loss of these nerves has not proved harmful.

The goal of radiofrequency neurotomy is to temporarily reduce chronic pain in the back or neck that hasn’t been adequately relieved by other means, such as medications or physical therapy.