New procedure to help reduce pain without opioids

Treatment option may help patients avoid side effects, addictive qualities of narcotics



Corey Johnson, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, says the radiofrequency ablation procedure can relieve back and knee pain without opioids.

DAISY ZAVALA, Evergreen managing editor

Pullman Regional Hospital patients now have access to a new procedure that helps with pain management.

Corey Johnson, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, said the new procedure involves radiofrequency ablation. It is narcotics- and surgery-free. Pullman Regional Hospital made it available in October of 2018.

Johnson said the procedure was implemented in order to have opioid-free options for patients. He defined opioids as addictive and said they can result in various side effects such as nausea and itching.

The procedure was carried out in hospitals throughout the Palouse before it was implemented in Pullman, Johnson said.

“The radiofrequency ablation procedure involves radio waves, which create heat that disrupts the sensory nerves of a certain part of the body, such as the knee or hip,” he said.

Johnson said the procedure, which can be done to relieve back or knee pain, takes about 30 minutes and requires the patient to be under deep sedation. The procedure is also used to reduce pain symptoms in a patient prior to surgery through a doctor’s referral. He said the effects of the procedure last about nine months on average, but it varies from patient to patient.

Patients need to be referred to the procedure by their doctor, Johnson said. They would have a consultation and scheduled the approved procedure within a week.

Johnson said the procedure could be utilized by patients who either don’t qualify for surgery or do not want to go through surgery. The procedure reduces pain as well as the need for opioid medication.

Possible side effects of the procedure include risks of infection, minor bleeding or bruising but only one-twelfth of patients experience any side effects, Johnson said.

He said the cost of the procedure depends on whether a patient has Medicare or insurance and how much the insurance will cover. The hospital bills the insurance company, and the insurance company decides how much it will pay determining the total cost to the patient.

Johnson said that patients would need to check with their insurance companies and call the hospital to get an estimate of the cost for the Radiofrequency Ablation procedure.