Facet Thermal Ablation

Facet thermal ablation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves short recovery time and little scar tissue. A laser is used to clean the facet joint and deaden the nerves that cause pain.

Facet joints are the cartilage discs between the vertebrae. When they degenerate, they may inflame, tear and pinch the spinal cord. Damage to facet joints may cause pain because the joints themselves are highly innervated, meaning that they contain many sensitive nerves.

After a facet thermal ablation procedure, you should not feel pain in or around a damaged joint facet. While it doesn't reverse the damage caused by degeneration, it is an effective treatment for many severe back pain symptoms. When paired with light exercise and lifestyle changes, it can help combat back and spinal conditions.

How Facet Thermal Ablation Works

Facet thermal ablation uses fiber optic laser surgery to fix facet joints in the spine. It requires no general anesthesia and is a safe alternative to open back surgery. The process is as follows:

  1. You receive a local anesthetic and sedation via IV.
  2. The surgeon creates a small incision and inserts a 5 mm tube into your back. The tube contains an irrigation channel, fiber optics and laser. They allow the doctor to perform the procedure without damaging surrounding muscles.
  3. The doctor clears your vertebrae of bone spurs and inflamed spinal disc fragments using the irrigation, laser and fiber optics for guidance.
  4. The surgeon then clears the nerves in your inflamed or damaged spinal disc using the laser. This should reduce pain in the affected disc.
  5. The surgeon removes the tube, bandages the incisions and conduct further ablations if necessary on other joints.

The surgery is complete after 1-2 hours of monitoring. Following the office visit, you should take a short walk, but avoid intense exertion for the rest of the day following the surgery. The next day, you will need to visit the doctor for a post-operative check-up.

The entire surgery takes about 40 minutes, not counting the post-op monitoring. Scarring is minimal, and you will be able to quickly return to your normal activities.

Conditions Treated by Facet Thermal Ablation

Facet thermal ablation may be used to treat a number of back and spinal conditions. These include:

  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Facet hypertrophy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Annular tearing
  • Degenerative facet joints

Any of these conditions may result in several symptoms, the most common of which are chronic or intermittent pain, numbness, tenderness and loss of spinal flexibility. Other symptoms include:

  • Muscular weakness
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Loss of bladder, bowel or sexual function or control
  • Oversensitivity to cold and humid weather
  • Fever, migraines, or insomnia
  • Temporary paralysis

Any symptoms in which the spinal cartilage degrades or has degraded can be treated with facet thermal ablation.

Getting Facet Thermal Ablation

Contact a physician for a professional diagnosis and recommendation before receiving facet thermal ablation. Your doctor may recommend that you get an X-ray or MRI scan before suggesting this procedure.

Facet thermal ablation is generally used to treat the most severe forms of back injury. However, due to its minimally invasive nature, short recovery time, and high success rate, it may expand to resolve other forms of back conditions. Ask your doctor if facet thermal ablation is right for you.

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