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A percutaneous procedure is any medical procedure or method where access to inner organs or other tissue is done via needle-puncture of the skin, rather than by using an "open" approach where inner organs or tissue are exposed (typically with the use of a scalpel).

Most people are able to return to work and normal activities within three days. Pain relief is typically experienced one to three weeks after the procedure.12

  • Longer-lasting pain relief compared to steroid injections3
  • Low complication rate45673
  • Greater range of motion45
  • Lower use of analgesics45
  • Improved quality of life4
  • Short recovery time
  • Skin sensitivity at the injection site
  • Skin infection at the injection site
  • Damage to surrounding blood vessels and nerves during needle placement
  • Heat damage to structures near the target nerve

Please consult with your doctor for the full list of possible side effects related to the RFA procedure.

It’s uncommon for a patient to be fully anesthetized for radiofrequency ablation procedures. The procedure is often performed while you are awake but sedated.1

Low complication and morbidity rates were reported for facet joint (back) ablation and genicular (knee) nerve ablation.89

The entire procedure usually takes between 30 to 90 minutes.10

RFA is an outpatient procedure that does not generally require an overnight hospital stay.

Pain relief is typically experienced one to three weeks after the procedure.12

Patients may experience significant pain relief for up to two years.11

RFA involves applying heat to certain nerve pathways to “shut off ” the transmission of pain signals to the brain. RFA may be performed while you’re awake, but sedated. The treatment area will be numbed with a local anesthetic. Using x-ray imaging, your doctor inserts a needle and electrode and guides them to the treatment area. A high-frequency electrical current then passes through the electrode, heating up and “lesioning” the sensory nerve.1213

Your doctor will do a physical exam and order x-rays and/or other imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT or bone scan.14 These tests help to determine the location of the fractured vertebra, how recently the fracture occurred and the most appropriate treatment.

Causes of VCFs include:15

  • Osteoporosis (most common)
  • Trauma
  • Tumor—an abnormal mass of tissue that forms when cells grow and divide more than they should or do not die when they should.
  • Infection

Studies suggest that one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will sustain an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.16 Approximately 700,000 osteoporotic VCFs occur every year.14

Non-surgical management, such as bed rest, physical therapy, bracing and opioids may lead to adverse outcomes that, if left untreated, may begin a "downward spiral"17 in the health status of patients. 

Adverse events that can occur:

  • Spinal deformity
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Impaired function
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Decreased activity
  • Increased bone loss
  • Increased fracture risk
  • Increased comorbidities
  • Increased risk of mortality

The overall success rate for vertebral augmentation in treating osteoporotic fractures is approximately 85% to 90%.18

Patients experience:

Serious side effects have been known to occur with the use of bone cement in surgical procedures of the spine. These include, but are not limited to, heart attack, cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), stroke, embolism (blood clot or bone cement that moves to the heart or lungs) or death. Side effects may occur beyond a year or more after the procedure. Other side effects related to use of an inflatable balloon device with bone cement include, but are not limited to, wound infection, bleeding, hematoma (collection of blood outside a blood vessel), allergic reaction and pneumothorax (collapsed lung). Please consult with your doctor for the full list of possible side effects related to the combined use of bone cement with an inflatable balloon device.

Vertebral augmentation is done on an outpatient basis and usually requires only local anesthetic. Typically, patients are able to go home within a few hours of treatment. In some instances, general anesthesia is advised with a short hospital stay.22

This procedure may be performed under local anesthesia. This means a patient is conscious, yet unable to feel pain. A sedative may be administered to help the patient relax and feel sleepy during the procedure. Or, the procedure may be performed under general anesthesia, which means the patient is asleep and unable to feel pain.25

Patients may be able to walk and return to their normal activities soon after surgery.

For many patients, vertebral augmentation is covered by Medicare and most private insurers.