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Also known as Radiofrequency Lesioning or Radiofrequency Thermal Ablation, RFA is a safe, proven means of treating chronic heel pain. In some studies, 90% of patients experienced complete resolution of symptoms.
The minimally-invasive RFA is recommended for patients who have pain for at least 3 months, and are unresponsive to conservative therapies.
How Radiofrequency Ablation works
Radio frequency energy is transmitted to the tip of a needle where it is converted to heat and targeted at specific nerve tissue. Once the nerves undergo this heat treatment, they slowly stop transmitting pain. Radiofrequency refers to radio waves, a form of electromagnetic energy produced during the procedure. Electromagnetic energy naturally exists all around us and is safer than that from x rays because it is absorbed by your body as heat, leaving cell structure intact.
The heat is applied by means of a small needle the podiatric surgeon guides through the patient's skin, directly into the nerve area to be ablated. The needle is designed so that the physician can heat a precise area at a specific temperature, essentially "cooking" the nerve tissue. RFA has a selective effect on nerve fibers, reducing or eliminating pain in the target area, but leaving other sensory capabilities intact. Only the nerve that is causing pain will be affected by the procedure.
What to expect after your RFA procedure
The RFA heel pain procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis. After the treatment is completed, a small bandage is placed over the probe insertion site and you can return to normal activity almost immediately.
After RF ablation, you may experience some discomfort, including swelling or bruising at the site of the treatment, but this will subside in a few days. You may also feel a slight increase in pain for 1-2 weeks, but the pain should slowly subside. In a small percentage of cases, heel pain may return, and if so, Radiofrequency Ablation may be repeated.