As of 2015, the radiofrequency ablation procedure for the spine uses electromagnetic waves to produce heat that destroys nerve tissue, which stops pain, according to Cedars-Sinai. Patients experience significant, extended relief from chronic pain after the surgery. The patient is sedated but alert during the procedure.
X-rays help the surgeon to direct two matching needles to the correct location beside the nerve, explains Cedars-Sinai. For less than two minutes, miniature electrodes inside the needles transmit electromagnetic waves at the speed of light. The pain signals to the brain cease when the intense heat vaporizes the nerve tissue that was transmitting the signals. Nurses move the patient to a recovery room for post-surgery monitoring, and then the patient returns home to rest for about one full day.