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Rhizotomy

A rhizotomy is a procedure that essentially “turns off” the pain signals from inflamed facet joints to the brain. This rhizotomy procedure is an option when there are facet joint issues in the spine. Each facet joint, which is located at each intervertebral segment of the spine, contains a medial nerve, which is the source of sensation in the joint, including pain. When the medial nerve is impacted, pain can develop.

This is why rhizotomy procedures and rhizotomy surgery are performed: to decrease lumbar and back pain, which can be debilitating. A rhizotomy procedure for back pain is a safe and effective method of dealing with the suffering, lack of movement, impaired activity and lower standard of life that comes from the very real effects of impact nerves.

Your rhizotomy surgeon will begin the procedure by guiding the placement of an electrode using fluoroscopy. Once that needle is in place, a mild electrical current stimulates the nerve to confirm its exact location. Then, the electrode is heated to deaden the sensory nerves, which is what stops the pain signals from traveling to the brain.

A rhizotomy is one of the least invasive procedures offered at the Interventional Spine & Surgery Group to relieve back pain but is still an option only after conservative treatments have failed to bring relief to patients suffering from facet joint issues, like facet syndrome. Patients often benefit from a rhizotomy procedure when their pain is limited to one spot or region in the spine, and aren’t experiencing additional symptoms.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Rhizotomy?

Rhizotomy has a number of uses, and is a common medical procedure due to the fact that it is minimally invasive and an easier surgery than most back surgeries. It is also effective at treating the following conditions:

  • Back and neck pain that is associated with arthritis, herniated discs, and degenerative spine conditions. In these rhizotomy procedures, called fact rhizotomy, the surgery works on the nerves that travel through the joints of the spine.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia, facial pain caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve, can be treated through a rhizotomy procedure and can relieve debilitating pain.
  • Pain in joints, including the knees and the hips, which are caused by arthritis are also prime candidates for rhizotomy.
  • There are several more, rarer conditions that can be treated through rhizotomy surgery, including pain affecting the peripheral nerves and spasticity caused by cerebral palsy. These procedures are much less common, though positive results have been seen.

What Is Recovery Like After a Rhizotomy?

The rhizotomy procedure is very quick, often lasting only a few minutes. Because of the anesthesia involved you will spend several hours in the surgical center’s recovery room. But you should be up on your feet in a very short period of time; depending on how you react to the anesthesia, you could be back to full activity, including driving and going to work, in as little as one to two days.
However, it’s not uncommon to have pain and swelling, or bruising, at the surgical site.

What is the Success Rate for Rhizotomy?

Like most procedures, rhizotomy can’t guarantee a 100% effectiveness rate. A portion of patients who undergo the surgery will receive little-to-no pain relief. And in others who are relieved of their pain, the pain may return in coming years as the nerve regrows. However, these are a small percentage of the cases. When you consult with a rhizotomy surgeon, they can give you all of the information you need to know to make an educated choice about your surgery. The vast majority of patients who undergo the rhizotomy procedure experience pain relief that lasts.