Radiofrequency Ablation Cost

Last Updated on December 31, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to destroy nerve fibers that send pain signals to the brain. It can provide relief for people with chronic pain, especially in the back, neck, and joints. Radiofrequency waves “burn” the nerve that causes pain, essentially eliminating the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

This procedure is most commonly used to treat chronic pain and conditions such as arthritis of the spine. It is also used to treat pain in the neck, back, knees, etc. The main side effect of radiofrequency ablation is some discomfort, including swelling and bruising at the treatment site, but it usually goes away after a few days.

How much does it cost the radiofrequency ablation therapy?

The price of the radiofrequency ablation will be influenced by a few factors such as the place where you are living and the clinic you choose. According to our online research, the costs of this procedure are almost never covered by health insurance policies. So, you will have to support all of the costs from your pocket and pay all the sum at once or set up a payment plan with the clinic. You should plan on spending anywhere between $3,000 and more than $5,900 for this procedure, with the effects lasting around two years.

The MDSave national average cost is $3,351, while the estimated national average cost is $5,920, according to the MDSave website.

Radiofrequency ablation procedure details

To prepare for radiofrequency ablation treatment, you need to take a few precautions, including:

Do not eat within six hours of scheduling; however, you can ingest clear fluids up to two hours before the procedure.

If you have diabetes and are taking insulin, you should adjust your insulin dose on the day of the procedure. Your primary care physician will assist you with this adjustment. Bring your diabetes medicine with you so that you can take it after the procedure.

Continue to take all other medicines with a small sip of water. Bring all medicines with you so that you can take them after the procedure. Please note: Do not stop taking any medicine without first consulting your primary care physician or referral physician.

You might also like our articles about the cost of IVIG treatment, Sciatica treatment, or Chiropractic treatment.

You will need to bring someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. You must not drive or use machines for at least 24 hours after the procedure.

After local anesthesia (you will be awake, but you will not feel any pain), the doctor will insert a small needle into the area where you are experiencing the pain. Using X-rays, your doctor will guide the needle to the exact target area. A microelectrode is then inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process.

During the procedure, your doctor will ask you if you are able to feel a tingling sensation. The purpose of the stimulation process is to help the doctor determine if the electrode is in the optimal area for treatment.

Once the placement of the needle and electrode is verified, a small radio frequency current is sent through the electrode into the surrounding tissue, causing the tissue to heat up. You should not feel discomfort during the warm-up part of the procedure.

What to expect after the procedure?

The punctured area will be properly bandaged by the nurse to avoid bleeding, and the patient will stay in bed for up to 6 hours after the procedure and will be able to resume his normal diet. The patient must report if he notices that the puncture site is very painful, edematous or bleeding (note that at the puncture site it is normal for bruising to occur, which should not worry the patient). The vital functions of the patient will be monitored continuously. Before going home, the patient will be explained the steps to follow to care for the place where the catheters were originally inserted.

Can I resume normal activities after radiofrequency ablation?

You will have some restrictions immediately after radiofrequency ablation:

  • Do not drive or use machines for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
  • You can resume your normal diet.
  • Do not engage in any intense activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Do not bathe for one to two days after the procedure; you can take a shower.
  • You can remove the bandages in the evening before bed.

What are the side effects of radiofrequency ablation?

You may experience the following effects after RFA:

Numbness in the feet: If you have numbness in the legs, only walk with assistance. This should only take a few hours and is due to local anesthesia given during the procedure.

Slight discomfort in the back: This can occur when the local anesthetic disappears and usually lasts two to three days. Apply ice to the area on the day of the procedure and moist heat the day after the procedure, if the discomfort persists. You can also use regular pain medications.

The main side effect of RFA is some discomfort, including swelling and bruising at the treatment site, but this usually goes away after a few days. 

Important things to consider

Radiofrequency ablation explainedThe degree of pain relief varies, depending on the cause and location of the pain. Pain relief from RFA can last from six to 12 months, and in some cases the relief can take years. Over 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief.

If you experience severe pain at the injection site and notice swelling and increased redness or weakness in your legs, contact someone at the nearest emergency room or call 911. Tell the emergency room staff that you have just had an RFA. A doctor should evaluate you for bleeding and complications from the injection.

RFA has proven to be a safe and effective way to treat some forms of pain. It is also generally well tolerated, with very few associated complications. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the site of insertion. Your doctor can advise you on your particular risk.

Who should not use radiofrequency ablation?

As with any medical procedure, RFA is not suitable for everyone. For example, radiofrequency ablation is not recommended for people with active infections or bleeding problems. Your doctor can tell you if you should have RFA.

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