Facet Thermal Ablation procedure explained by Jeffrey Nees, M.D.
Learn from neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Nees M.D., what happens during a facet thermal ablation as performed in an outpatient basis at Laser Spine Institute.
A facet thermal ablation is a procedure that's very similar to a root canal performed by a dentist. The surgeon uses a laser to clean out the facet joint and deaden the nerve that innervates the joint and causes painful symptoms. The facet joints are the joint structures that connect the vertebrae to one another. Thermal ablation refers to the laser eradication of the affected nerve.
A facet thermal ablation is used to treat the following conditions:
In general, the conditions above mean pretty much the same thing - arthritis or degeneration of the facet joint.
The facet joint is like any other joint in your body - it has cartilage that lines the joint (allowing the bones to glide smoothly over one another) and a capsule surrounding the joint.
The function of the facet joint is to provide support, stability, and mobility to the vertebrae of the spine. There are two facet joints between each vertebrae. Facet disease can occur at any level of the spine, but it most commonly occurs in the lumbar (or lower back) region.
At Laser Spine Institute, surgeons perform facet thermal ablations in an outpatient surgical setting.
After the patient receives IV sedation and a local anesthetic, the surgeon creates a small incision where a round Depuy tube (about the size of a straw) is inserted. This tube allows us to perform facet thermal ablations with minimal damage to the surrounding muscles, which are moved aside and are not torn or cut. The laser, fiber optics, and irrigation are all inserted in the tube to perform surgery on the facet joint. The surgeon uses the laser to debride (clean the joint) and deaden the nerve that innervates the joint. This procedure takes about 40 minutes and will resolve the pain associated with the facet joint. After one to two hours of monitoring, the patient (with a companion) is free to go.
We generally encourage patients to take a long walk the afternoon or evening of their facet thermal ablation procedure. The patient then returns the following day for a postoperative visit to get clearance from the doctor to return home.
Laser Spine Institute offers various minimally invasive procedures to relieve neck and back pain caused by spinal conditions and nerve conditions. Procedures offered include foraminotomy, discectomy, facet thermal ablation, and fusion alternatives. After-surgery option includes physical therapy sessions to help minimize the recuperation period.
Advantages of having your spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute include no hospitalization, minimally invasive surgery, minimal scar tissue formation, and the availability of outpatient procedures.
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