It is estimated that about 25 percent of adult’s experience knee pain that limits their mobility and function. For most of them, osteoarthritis is the culprit. Fifty percent of adults over 60 years old have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis . A lot of people receiving conventional treatment with medications either do not get adequate relief or the side effects also affect their quality of life. Because of this, they explore different options and one of these is cooled radiofrequency ablation (CFRA).
What is CFRA and How Does it Work?
This is a variation of traditional radiofrequency ablation. After inserting an electrode into the pain generating area of the knee, the painful area heated. The special electrode has water circulating while it heats tissue creating a larger area of ablation resulting in better pain relief compared to the traditional method. When skilled practitioners treat a larger area of pain like they can with CFRA, they are able to reduce tissue damage risk by using image guidance which, increases accuracy and provide greater pain relief.
This non-surgical pain management method heats up the tissue while water circulates through the device. Next, the sensory nerves that transmit pain signals from the affected area are targeted with the radiofrequency energy. A sensory nerve that is causing pain is burned, thereby blocking and stopping pain signals from being able to travel to the brain. This treatment does not affect the muscles or cause weakness as it only acts on the pain generating sensory nerves.
What Are the Benefits?
This treatment has several benefits to know about and these include:
• It is a fast, outpatient procedure
• You do not need general anesthesia
• Within a couple days to a couple weeks you can start feeling relief
• It is a non-invasive procedure in that there is no cutting
• The recovery time is fast, and the discomfort is minimal
• Many people need less pain medication after this procedure
What Kind of Results Can You Expect?
One study showed that people experienced about a 74 percent reduction in their knee pain following this procedure. The relief that you get can last an average of nine to 24 months. Once the pain starts to return, you can have the procedure again for more long-term relief.
Who is a Good Candidate?
If you have had a diagnostic pain receptor block injection and experienced relief from your symptoms, you are generally a good candidate for this procedure. When the doctor is using fluoroscopic guidance, this procedure may be contraindicated for some people, including:
• Those who are pregnant
• People with an active infection
• If you have any bleeding issues
Before the treatment, your practitioner will go over your medical history and do a quick physical examination. This allows them to determine if you are a good candidate and ensure that your risk of complications is as low as possible.
What is the Procedure Like?
The procedure is performed in a hospital or operating room setting. Before the procedure starts, patients usually receive an IV and may be given medication for pain or to relax them. The next step is to inject a numbing medicine to further reduce discomfort. Then the physician inserts the special radiofrequency needle. Your doctor will likely use ultrasound or fluoroscopy to guide it. Using this type of imaging makes it easier to get the proper placement. They might also use contrast dye to ensure the needle is in the right spot before delivering the radiofrequency. Once the heat is delivered to burn the nerve, it remains in place for approximately 2-3 minutes. After this, the needle is removed. If several nerves in the same area are being burned, this can often be done at the same time.
Why CFRA is Better than the Alternatives?
There are few possible side effects and once the short recovery period is over, most people have pain relief, but no negative effects. The CRFA procedure targets the site and source of your pain. Whereas if you use oral medications daily for your pain, you risk experiencing side effects every time that you take that medication.
Compared to more invasive surgeries, like knee replacement, CFRA has a faster recovery time than surgery, it can be performed on individuals who are not candidates for surgery, and it can be performed safely and still allows you to have surgery down the road if needed. Most people can usually go back to work within one to three days and there is no hospital stay. If you have major surgery, you usually have to stay at least overnight in the hospital and you can expect weeks of recovery. In most cases, physical therapy is also needed, but it is not with CFRA.
CFRA knee therapy may be able to help when you are not responding to medications. To learn more about this joint preservation and pain management method, contact our sports medicine clinic today to schedule your appointment. We will evaluate your knee pain and help you to decide if CFRA pain relief is the best option for you.