Learning About Genicular Nerve Blocks and Ablations

What is it?

Nerve ablation is a procedure that destroys nerves in an area of pain. Ablation may be used for chronic low back pain, neck pain, and pain in some other areas of the body.

Why is it used?

Ablation may be used when other methods of pain control haven’t helped. It can work well for some types of pain.

How is a nerve block used before an ablation?

Before the nerve ablation procedure, you will have a test that uses a nerve block. The nerve block tells the doctor if the ablation will relieve your pain. This test numbs specific nerves to help your doctor find the nerves that are causing your pain. Guided by X-rays or ultrasound, the doctor injects a drug on or near the nerve. The drug relieves pain by stopping the nerve from carrying pain signals for a short time. If the nerve block relieves your pain, the ablation may work for you.

How is the nerve ablation done?

Nerve ablation may be done using heat, cold, or chemicals. You’ll be awake for the procedure so you can provide feedback to your doctor. You’ll get a local anesthetic to numb the area, and you may receive medication to help you relax.

During the procedure, your doctor may use X-rays or ultrasound to see where to put the hollow needle that will be used. Your doctor will then place the needle under your skin and destroy the nerve tissue. You may feel buzzing or tingling.

The procedure usually take around 30 minutes to perform, but it may take longer.

How well does it work?

The amount of pain relief from ablation, and how long the relief lasts, varies by the cause of your pain and its location. It may not stop the pain for good. The destroyed nerve may grow back, if it does, the pain may come back. You can have the procedure repeated if needed. Nerve ablations do not work for everyone.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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