Facet Joint & Medial Branch Blocks
Facet joints are the joints located between adjacent vertebral bones of the spine. They are paired joints that provide stability to the vertebral column. Wear and tear or mechanical stress may damage the facet joints, resulting in pain and inflammation. Facet joint and medial branch blocks are injections administered to nerves called medial branches that carry pain sensations from the facet joints to the spine and brain. These injections block the pain impulses and help reduce inflammation. They usually contain a mixture of an anesthetic and a steroid.
For the injection procedure, you will lie on your stomach. The site to be injected is sterilized and numbed with local anesthetic. Your doctor then inserts a needle in the region of the facet joint or medial branch under the guidance of live X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy). The anesthetic-steroid mixture is then slowly injected and once the needle is withdrawn the site is covered by a sterile bandage. You may need more than one injection depending on the number of facet joints involved. Pain relief from the anesthetic is usually immediate. The steroids start to take effect (reduce inflammation) in 2-3 days.
You may experience a temporary burning or pressure sensation during the injection, followed by some numbness for a few hours.
Facet joint and medial branch blocks are usually safe procedures but do carry certain risks which include infection, bleeding, nerve damage and allergy to the injected medications.