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Last Modified: May 2, 2023

What is A Rhizotomy?

The term rhizotomy is used to define a surgical procedure where damaged and defective nerves are selectively destroyed. There are two main types of rhizotomy, selective dorsal rhizotomy and facet rhizotomy.
Selective dorsal rhizotomy is an open surgery where a small incision is made and the bony ridges that protect the spinal column (laminae) are removed from the affected area, giving the surgical team access to the nerve roots. The affected nerve is then selected and, essentially deactivated with electrical pulses. This type of rhizotomy is most often performed to stop the spastic, uncontrollable muscle movement that comes with cerebral palsy. The other type of surgery is a facet rhizotomy. This is a much less-involved outpatient procedure that addresses chronic pain by killing the sensory nerves in a specific joint. During this procedure a doctor will insert an electrode-tipped needle into the joint, then radio waves run through the electrode, gradually heating the nerves until they stop sending signals to the brain. This procedure is most commonly used to treat pain from spinal arthritis and facet joint syndrome.

Does My Condition Warrant A Rhizotomy?

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy has proven effective in stopping the involuntary nerve action symptomatic of Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis. The procedure affects the spinal column directly, and thus puts the patient at risk for further nerve damage, but complications from this surgery are rare. This surgery is never recommended to treat general pain or discomfort, it can only stop erratic nerve function. The less-invasive facet rhizotomy, however, has been shown to be effective treating the symptoms of more typical conditions like arthritis and facet joint syndrome. Facet surgery, it should be noted, treats the symptoms of nerve pain, but not always the underlying cause. It is important to discuss with your physician the risks and benefits of surgery. Candidates for facet surgery have pain lasting at least 3–6 months, and have almost always exhausted other, non-invasive options. Another indicator is if the facet joint is causing pain, or impeding movement, to the point where it prevents the patient from leading a normal life. Navigating the world of injury and health insurance can be a very tricky business. You, the patient, should only have to worry about healing or about financial troubles. Contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer if you or someone you know has been injured due to another’s fault or negligence. Return to Medical Terms and Procedures

Further Reading Article On Facet Rhizotomy WebMd Page on Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy A More Concise Description of Facet Rhizotomy Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy in Children

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