Radiofrequency Ablation Specialist

St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine

Miguel Pappolla, MD, PhD

Neurology & Pain Medicine located in the Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX

If you have chronic pain that resists conservative treatment but responds well to a diagnostic nerve block, radiofrequency ablation may be right for you. At St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine in Houston, Texas, Miguel Pappolla, MD, performs radiofrequency ablation to treat a wide range of disorders like neck and back pain without surgery. To find out if you’re a candidate for radiofrequency ablation, call the office or request an appointment online today.

Radiofrequency Ablation Q & A

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses energy from radio waves to heat (ablate) specific nerves, eliminating their ability to carry pain signals to the brain. 


Also called rhizotomy or radiofrequency neurotomy, this nonsurgical approach can provide lasting relief for many types of chronic pain, especially in the low back, neck, and arthritic joints.


Pain relief from radiofrequency ablation can last from six months to more than two years. The amount and duration of pain relief vary from person to person.

Why would I need radiofrequency ablation?

At St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine, Dr. Pappolla uses radiofrequency ablation to treat many chronic pain conditions, such as:


  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Peripheral nerve pain

If chronic pain continues to interfere with your life despite conservative treatments like physical therapy and medication, you may benefit from radiofrequency ablation.

How do I know if radiofrequency ablation is right for me?

To determine if radiofrequency ablation is right for you, Dr. Pappolla administers a diagnostic nerve block injection. He injects a small amount of numbing medication into the precise location he would put the radiofrequency needles.


If the nerve block significantly reduces your pain, radiofrequency ablation at those same spots may provide longer-lasting relief.


Make sure to discuss any medications you take with Dr. Pappolla. You may need to stop taking certain medications, like blood thinners or aspirin, several days before the procedure.

What should I expect from a radiofrequency ablation procedure?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day. You stay awake the whole time but receive numbing medication and gentle sedation to keep you comfortable.

During the procedure, Dr. Pappolla inserts a thin needle into the area where you feel pain. He uses fluoroscopy (X-ray) guidance to pinpoint the exact location and ensure he only treats the targeted nerve tissue. A radiofrequency current flows through the needle and creates a small burn on the pain-causing nerve. 

Radiofrequency ablation takes about 90 seconds per site. Dr. Pappolla may treat multiple nerves at the same time.

To learn more about radiofrequency ablation, call St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine or book an appointment online today.