What is a rhizotomy?

A rhizotomy is a minimally invasive procedure designed to deaden nerve tissue so that it can no longer register pain. There are several types of rhizotomy, including radiofrequency ablation, surgical nerve cutting, and chemical ablation. Each type uses a different technique to remove or destroy the nerve endings.

Rhizotomy can help treat back and spine conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. Joint pain in the knee or hip may also benefit from rhizotomy, as well as other conditions stemming from nerve pain. Dorsal and selective dorsal rhizotomy may also be used to treat cerebral palsy.

Types of rhizotomy

The most common types of rhizotomy include:

Radiofrequency ablation — This procedure uses heat from radio waves to destroy the target nerve tissue. Radio waves are delivered via a needle, which is inserted into your spine under local anaesthetic.

Chemical ablation — A needle is used to deliver a small amount of glycerin to the nerve root, destroying the tissue.

Endoscopic rhizotomy — A tiny camera (endoscope) is inserted through a small cut in your back. This camera guides your surgeon in removing the affected nerve root surgically.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy — This is a type of endoscopic rhizotomy used to treat cerebral palsy.

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Rhizotomy FAQs

Learn more about getting a rhizotomy in these frequently asked questions.

Rhizotomies are used to treat various types of chronic pain, including:

  • Long-term sciatica
  • Chronic spinal arthritis
  • Sacroiliac joint pain
  • Peripheral nerve pain
  • Pain in the neck, back, leg, or arm that stems from spinal nerves

It may also be used to treat cerebral palsy (usually in children).

Your nerve roots can grow back even after a rhizotomy procedure so you might need multiple rhizotomies over the years. There’s currently no guideline on the upper limit of rhizotomy procedures you can have as long as it continues to give you effective pain relief.

A lumbar rhizotomy specifically targets the nerve roots in the lower back (also known as the lumbar spine).

A rhizotomy takes place under local anaesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel much pain during the procedure itself. However, when the pain relief wears off, you might experience some discomfort for a few days. The amount of pain differs from person to person, but some people describe the feeling as similar to sunburn.

Other treatments can be used to quell back and nerve pain instead of a rhizotomy. Rhizotomy alternatives include spinal surgery, spinal cord stimulation, and spinal injections for back pain.

Check with your medical team about your suitability for these alternative procedures.

How much does a rhizotomy cost?

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Spread the cost of your medical treatment over several months with our finance options and medical payment plans. This is ideal for patients seeking the speed and comfort of private healthcare without significant upfront payments.


Use our self-payment options to get prompt care with the consultant of your choice. Patients looking for fast, efficient treatment without private health insurance are welcome to pay for treatment before their procedure.

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We welcome patients with private medical insurance from approved insurers, including Bupa, AXA, Aviva, and many more. Find out how to claim for your treatment with private health insurance to get optimum care and comfort.

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Learn more about rhizotomy treatments

Find out more about rhizotomy for pain relief below.

A rhizotomy is an umbrella term for a procedure that eliminates nerve endings that send pain signals to the brain. An ablation is a type of rhizotomy that involves using specific techniques (usually heat or chemicals) to destroy the nerve endings.

Rhizotomy risks and side effects can vary depending on which type of treatment you use. With any rhizotomy, the risks include bleeding, swelling, and bruising around the injection or incision site. There’s also a small risk of infection and damage to surrounding nerve tissue.

Yes, you’re normally awake for a rhizotomy. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic in your back so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.

You can normally go back to work within a couple of days of a rhizotomy. However, if your job involves heavy lifting or standing up for long periods, consider staying off work a little longer to give your body time to heal.

No, rhizotomy isn’t considered a major surgery. You won’t need general anaesthetic or invasive surgical techniques, leading to faster recovery compared with spinal surgery.

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