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Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation
What is Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?
Radiofrequency nerve ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses high frequency radio waves to heat the affected sensory nerves that cause plantar heel pain. It is usually performed at a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius. At this temperature the nerve is denervated and is thus no longer able to transmit pain signals. Radiofrequency nerve ablation is a recognised treatment that has been used in medicine for many years, mostly for chronic back pain and heart disorders.
The procedure is minimally invasive and is performed under local anaesthetic to numb the local area of where the radiofrequency probe is introduced. A nerve stimulator is used to correctly identify the sensory nerves that are the source of heel pain. Once identified, more anaesthetic is administered to numb the sensory nerve that is to be ablated via heat. The probe tip produces heat to a very targeted area that minimises damage to other structures around the nerve. The area treated is approximately the size of small garden pea.
After the Procedure
As the procedure is minimally invasive, recovery is relatively fast. Following the procedure a light dressing is applied. You can return to weightbearing in regular footwear such as a trainer. It is advised to minimise your activity levels for the first 48 hours after the procedure and to take a short course of basic pain medication to minimise post-op discomfort such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Does it work?
Radiofrequency ablation is a well established treatment for stubborn/severe cases of plantar heel pain. There are many published studies demonstrating high success rates with this procedure. The overall success rate after reviewing all published studies is 89%.
What are the risks?
Radiofrequency ablation comes with minimal risks but there are a few possibilities including:
Infection or abscess formation at the puncture site which is rare
Bruising and swelling that can be painful. Numbness around the treated area may also occur but this is a rare side effect
Weakness of the small muscles in the foot
Radiofrequency nerve ablation is an excellent treatment option for resistant cases of plantar heel pain that have not responded to previous conventional treatments. The main advantages of radiofrequency ablation are that the plantar fascia is left intact, the patient is able to return to full activities within 1-2 weeks post-procedure, and the pain relief is long lasting.
At The Heel Pain Expert, we provide radiofrequency nerve ablation. If you would like to discuss this option schedule a call.