OHSU

Radiofrequency Rhizotomy

Radiofrequency rhizotomy is one treatment option used to relieve nerve pain. This procedure uses heat to relieve the pain of trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

The procedure

This procedure is done under sedation (medication to make you relax and minimize discomfort). If you want to, you can talk to your doctor during the procedure. Your doctor might ask questions about whether your face feels numb so he can target the point where the pain-causing nerve fibers need to be destroyed.

Guided by imaging technology, your surgeon inserts a specialized needle through your cheek to the area where your trigeminal nerve divides into its three main branches. He or she then directs the needle tip to the division that is causing your pain.

Next, your surgeon sends a tiny heating current to the branch through the needle tip. This procedure selectively damages the nerve in order to interfere with the nerve sending pain signals to your brain.

After the procedure

Radiofrequency rhizotomy is done on an outpatient basis (no overnight hospital stay). You should not eat or drink anything before the procedure. You need someone to take you home afterwards.

Risks of radiofrequency rhizotomy

This procedure is usually safe. However, you usually have some numbness in your face. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of your particular procedure.