Cervical Radiofrequency Neurotomy (Ablation) for Migraine and Headache?

Ellen Schnakenberg @eschnak Health Guide November 13, 2007
  • Radio Frequency Neurotomy (or ablation) is the application of a precisely targeted electrical field to change the function of nerves - in my case, several specific spinal nerve branches at the top of my neck, making it incapable of transmitting pain signals.  A probe is placed thru the skin and muscles to the targeted nerves next to the spine in the facet joints, and the radio frequency waves damage the spinal nerve roots so that they no longer function.


    Hello all. This is my first share-post here. I hope perhaps someone out there is familiar with or has undergone this procedure (good or bad) and can give me a clue what to expect, or if I should even consider it.

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    I had six diagnostic blocks done about a month ago. C2-C4, left and right. Neck pain relief was amazing after the numbness wore off and cortisone kicked in really well. Pain relief for chronic debilitating migraines and Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias (TACs), was partial. The pain I feel with headaches is mostly on the inside of my head and the blocks only affected the outside.  This type of block often is reported to affect trigeminal autonomic cephalgias as well as Migraine.  The blocks themselves did not do much but make me dizzy, off balance and feeling like I was balancing a pumpkin (head) on my shoulders, but relief began approximately 4-6 days later. Unfortunately, it was very short-lived and I am now experiencing much more severe pain than I was in before the block. Staying out of the ER (my goal in life it seems) has become a daily struggle that is very quickly wearing me to exhaustion. My usual upbeat attitude is nearly gone, and this worries me as I have almost always been able to keep positive even in the face of my constant severe pain.

    My pain doc asked me to come back in a month for a check-up, but I found out that he already has me scheduled for a radiofrequency neurotomy for which I have not yet agreed. Quite frankly, the whole situation is upsetting. I think that perhaps the doc scheduled me because he is trying to help me asap as I am in a severe situation with few visible escape doors left. Despite my intense pain and disability, I have learned that taking the time to do it right is probably the most important thing I can do for myself. After having a thyroid ablation (radioactive iodine) gone terribly wrong and finding out later that I was not receiving proper treatment before the ablation and did not actually need it in the first place, perhaps everyone can understand why the thought of undergoing a procedure of this type and in this manner might be a bit frightening for me. I've already goofed once in being the 'good patient' and doing what I was told when facing a disabling condition.  Add to this the fact that I am used to Equine Nervectomies which often can go wrong as well, and I am essentially feeling trapped and afraid of making the wrong decision without enough information.

    For instance: No one will tell me the potential side-effects or contraindications (I've found a few on my own including increased pain), but I know that there are some out there for everything. No one will tell me what I will feel with the procedure completed, how long it will last, if it will work, if I will end up worse off than I began, or if I will ever be able to feel my head and neck again. Research I've read states that, if it works, I will probably get between 2-400 days of relief. To me, that also means that I could have 2-400 days of "you-know-what" if something goes wrong. And the holidays are coming. Pain has already ruined so many family experiences, I am afraid I may be setting us all up for months of even worse misery and ruined memories, something that is not acceptable.

  • The only person I've talked with who's done this procedure is about 3 weeks post, and suffering much worse migraine headaches than she ever did before the process.

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    Any advice here would be immensely helpful and appreciated!

    I understand how the procedure actually takes place, and I understand what its function is. I want to know the things that are discussed between patients who have been thru the procedure. I want to find the answers to my questions and to find peace in either doing this or refusing it.

    Thanks so much to everyone. I am really looking forward to hearing what you think...

    (Read more about my Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgia and Migraine history here- http://forums.wegohealth.com/forums/member/88/ )

    "Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You do not quit when you're tired -You quit when the gorilla is tired. -Robert Strauss

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