Cutting-edge procedure can relieve knee pain where other treatments fail

ST. GEORGE — The physicians at Desert Pain Specialists are offering a new treatment for their patients with chronic knee pain called radiofrequency ablation that offers an alternative to last resort knee surgery or continuing pain after knee surgery.

Knee pain due to osteoarthritis, or OA, can be managed with conservative treatments such as over-the-counter pain medicines and physical therapy, the clinic’s news release said. But if those conservative treatments are unsuccessful in alleviating  pain, the next step includes steroid injections or viscosupplementation, such as Synvisc/Euflexa treatments. If that doesn’t work, a knee replacement is commonly needed to get full pain relief.  

Historically, there have been few options if the knee replacement fails or if a patient is not a candidate for surgery. Radiofrequency ablation, the news release said, is a cutting-edge treatment option worth considering.

“Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA is a treatment covered by Medicare and most other commercial insurances that typically eradicates chronic knee pain,” Dr. Court Empey said.
“RFA is a technology that uses radiofrequency waves to produce heat through specialized needles to specific points of treatment in the body.  Cardiologists use the technology to treat cardiac arrhythmias, oncologists use RFA to treat tumors, and interventional spine and pain specialists use the technology to treat common arthritic conditions.”

To determine if you are a candidate for a knee radiofrequency ablation you must be seen by an interventional spine specialist or a pain management physician.  A thorough history and physical will be performed. Empey described the procedure:

Knee radiofrequency ablation is a two-step process. First, your pain specialist will perform a diagnostic procedure or ‘test shot’ to see if you are likely to have significant pain relief from RFA. During the diagnostic injection, a medication is injected under fluoroscopy (X-ray guidance) next to the nerves around the knee, called genicular nerves. This medication serves to temporarily block the pain signals.  A few minutes later in the recovery area, you will bend and move your knee to determine the level of pain relief.  Some patients have 100 percent pain reduction, others less.  Medicare and most health plans require that a patient have at least 50-80 percent pain reduction in order to be a candidate for RFA.

RFA is then done under conscious sedation as an outpatient procedure.  The heat produced by the RFA waves burn or cauterize the sensory nerves that cause you to feel the joint.

The genicular nerves may regenerate pain-sensing nerves a year or two later at which time the procedure can easily be repeated. Desert Pain Specialists offers this interventional procedure and Empey is excited about it. He said, “The radiofrequency ablation of the knee has been a great option for many of my patients who suffer from chronic knee pain.”

Ultimately RFA is a very safe and effective way to “burn” out the arthritis that many patients feel due to chronic knee pain secondary to osteoarthritis.  

If you would like to be evaluated for RFA, please call Desert Pain Specialists at telephone 435-216-7000 for a consultation or talk to your primary care provider about a referral.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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