Facet Medial Branch Block is a diagnostic procedure used to locate the source of facet joint and back pain. The spine’s joints are called facet joints, which provide the spine’s flexibility. These joints may become damaged from age or trauma, such as whiplash, and arthritis can develop. The medial branch nerve provides sensation to the facet joint and this procedure is used to determine whether a specific facet joint is the source of pain.
How is Facet Medial Branch Block performed?
Prior to the procedure, patients have the option of receiving a mild sedative. Most patients do not need anesthesia because the needles are very small. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area of injection, so a needle is guided into place of the cervical spine using a fluoroscope, or real-time x-ray. Once the needle is positioned near the median nerve, a combination of anesthetics, amounting to less than half of 1 cc, is injected into the medial region.
What should be expected?
While the nerve block is diagnostic, it may be therapeutic in providing pain relief. The entire facet block procedure takes less than 10 minutes. The duration of pain relief is dependent on each individual patient’s cause of pain, the extent of joint damage and the facet joint medal nerve’s reaction to the steroid. If the medial branch block provides pain relief, then the patient may be a candidate for radiofrequency nerve ablation as a pain management treatment.
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