Treating lower back pain: what is rhizolysis surgery?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 21/02/2020
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Rhizolysis surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure using the application of radiofrequency that minimises or decreases back pain and neck pain in the case of herniated discs, and is suitable for patients who do not require a more aggressive surgical treatment. Rhizolysis is also known as radiofrequency denervation or facet joint radiofrequency denervation.

What is rhizolysis?

Rhizolysis is able to reduce or eliminate the pain in patients who have lower back pain. Rhizolysis attempts to minimise or reduce the secondary pain of herniated discs where there is no root involvement. A special probe is placed close to a nerve that comes from the facet joints of the lumbar spine and radiofrequency stimulates the nerve so that it becomes heated and it stops sending signals back to the spine, thus alleviating back pain symptoms.

Read more: causes of lower back pain

What are the risks with rhizolysis surgery?

The side effects of facet joint rhizolysis are minimal. The risks involved are related to the puncture itself, that is, the risk of infection or haematoma (a collection of blood outside of blood vessels) to the lumbar puncture. However, in the long run the benefits are far greater than the possible side effects. Living without back pain greatly improves the quality of life for the patient after this kind of back surgery.


Can rhizolysis surgery be used with all types of patients?

In principle, facet joint rhizolysis can be applied to all patients with cervical, dorsal or lumbar pain, as long as their condition does not require more invasive surgery.

Read more: preventing a slipped disc

When can normal activities be resumed after surgery?

Rhizolysis is an outpatient procedure that lasts about one hour. Patients usually go home on their own and can resume their activities immediately, as long as they do not overdo things, get involved in anything strenuous or lift weights during the following four days. It is procedure that requires practically no kind of post-operative care.


A cure for lower back pain? Success rates of facet joint rhizolysis

Unfortunately a proportion of patients do not respond to the surgery but for those that do, relieved of their lower back pain, the success rate is in the region of 60-70%. The reduction in their symptoms can last from anywhere between three months to a year, and it is sometimes necessary to repeat the procedure, especially if back pain returns.


If you are interested in finding out more about this procedure, make an appointment with an expert in rhizolysis (radiofrequency denervation).


By Topdoctors

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