Facet Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure with a short recovery time and little scar tissue. A laser is used to clean and deaden the nerves that carry pain signals directly to a facet joint. This procedure is beneficial for conditions like spinal osteoarthritis, which is the inflammation of the facet joints in the spine due to spinal arthritis.
It requires no general anesthesia and is a safe alternative to open back surgery. Facet ablation begins with a small incision, through which the diseased facet joint is thoroughly cleaned. Next, a small laser is used to desensitize the medial branch nerves that travel near the affected joints. Because this is a minimally invasive procedure, there is no trauma to or tearing of the surrounding muscles.
The process is as follows:
- You receive a local anesthetic and sedation via IV.
- The surgeon creates a small incision and inserts a small 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.
- The doctor clears your vertebrae of bone spurs and inflamed spinal disc fragments using the irrigation, laser and fiber optics for guidance.
- The surgeon then clears the nerves in your inflamed or damaged spinal disc using the laser. This should reduce pain in the affected disc.
- The surgeon removes the tube, bandages the incisions and conduct further ablations if necessary on other joints.
The actual 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.
The entire procedure is complete after one or two 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.
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.