Cooling off period for chronic pain

When chronic pain is in charge of your life, nothing else matters. Whether the pain is in your back, knees, hips or neck, you just want it to GO AWAY. There is a promising new minimally-invasive procedure called cooled radiofrequency ablation (RFA) which targets nerves that are causing the pain.

Washington University pain management specialist Michael Bottros, MD, says, “Cooled radiofrequency ablation is offered to patients for pain relief after other techniques have been tried with limited results, such as physical therapy, medications and steroid injections.”

The ablation is a two-step process. During the first procedure, the nerves in the patient’s painful area are injected with a local anesthetic. The patient keeps a pain diary for eight hours following the injection. If the patient experiences at least a 50-70% reduction in pain level, he or she is a candidate for the ablation procedure.

Dr. Bottros explains, “The ablation procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes and requires no hospital stay or downtime. An electrode is inserted into the painful area and cooled thermal radiofrequency energy is used to safely target the sensory nerves causing the pain.

Although ablation results may not last forever, interventional techniques are used along with the ablation to improve a patient’s function. The procedure helps reduce the pain enough to allow the individual to do physical therapy to achieve long-term relief from the pain. This comprehensive approach is key to pain management.”

In some cases, ablation can help someone who needs knee surgery, but must lose weight to become a candidate for the surgery. The knee pain prevents the patient from exercising and this in turn keeps him or her from losing weight. The patient is stuck in the middle of no-man’s land. The ablation reduces the pain — allowing the patient to exercise and lose enough weight to be eligible for surgery.

In other cases, ablation can be used as treatment for patients suffering from chronic post-knee replacement pain. Even after knee replacement surgery, as many as 15-20% of patients may continue to have knee pain. Dr. Bottros says, “The RFA procedure is now an option for patients where previously the only other treatment would have been opioids.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain and would like make an appointment with one of our pain management specialists, please call 314-362-8820.

Patients are seen at three convenient locations:

Center for Advanced Medicine, Pain Management Center, 4921 Parkview Place, 14th floor, Suite C.

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Washington University Pain Management Center, 969 North Mason Road, Suite 240.Missouri Baptist Medical Center, 3015 North Ballas Road.