Facet Joint Radiofrequency Ablation
This diagnostic procedure is an injection that blocks medial nerve pain signals, which transmit pain messages to your brain. If the injection lessens your facet joint pain, you may be a candidate for more long-term procedures.
What You Need To Know About Medial Branch Blocks
What is a Medial Branch Block?
A medial branch block alleviates pain in the spine by injecting numbing medicine directly into the medial branch nerves. Medial branch nerves connect to facet joints in the spine. These nerves become aggravated and inflamed due to a variety of conditions, and an injection can temporarily alleviate your pain.
Medial branch block injection is a diagnostic procedure to understand the cause of your spine pain, depending on which region of your spine is affected (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar). If you experience swift pain relief following an injection, you may be a candidate for longer-term pain relief with other spine procedures.
Medial branch block procedures can help identify sources of back pain. Getting relief for spine pain starts with a visit to the Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule your appointment now.
Why is a Medial Branch Block Procedure Performed?
This procedure's primary goal is to rule out if a problem with your facet joints is the cause of your back pain. After the procedure, you may experience temporary pain relief from your condition. If the numbing medication blocks the pain signals to your brain, you may be a candidate for other procedures to relieve your condition.
During a medial branch block, your doctor will make a series of injections in each region of your back. Depending on what part of your spine is in pain, facet joint injections can identify many conditions, including sciatica.
How to Prepare for A Medial Branch Block Procedure
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about any related conditions. Be sure to mention issues like allergies and family history. Tell your doctor about any medication you are taking — including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and other health supplements. These are crucial for planning your procedure.
A medial branch block procedure is a relatively quick procedure. Typically, it does not involve a hospital stay. Before your appointment, make arrangements with a loved one or professional service to take you home. Do not drive yourself home or plan any strenuous activities immediately following your procedure.
What Happens During a Medial Branch Block?
In preparation for the procedure, the patient is positioned on their stomach. The physician injects a local anesthetic. This numbs the skin and tissue around the facet joint that is suspected of causing the patient's pain.
Once this tissue is numb, the physician inserts a needle into the skin. The needle is carefully guided down to the facet joint. The physician injects a contrast solution through this needle. The contrast solution helps the physician see the area on a camera called a fluoroscope. The fluoroscope provides live x-ray images. The physician uses the fluoroscope to confirm the location of the needle's tip.
Once the physician has confirmed that the needle is positioned correctly, the physician attaches a syringe containing an anesthetic medication. This medication is injected around small nerves called the medial branch nerves. These carry signals to and from the facet joints. The anesthetic will temporarily block sensation in these nerves.
If the temporary injection relieves the patient's pain, the physician may inject a more long-lasting anesthetic. If the temporary injection does not relieve the pain, the physician may test nearby facet joints to identify the correct one.
Are There Risks Associated With Medial Branch Block Procedures?
No procedure is entirely free from complications. That said, there are minimal risks to medial branch block procedures. Some common side effects include:
Spinal cord or nerve damage
Your Resurgens Physician will be able to give you a more comprehensive breakdown of side effects and risks.
Post Medial Branch Block Injection and Recovery
Following a brief observation period, you will be discharged after your procedure. You may start to feel pain relief in the next few hours. Do not overexert yourself in the first few days following your procedure. Gradually resume your regular exercise routine.
A medial branch block is only a diagnostic procedure. Expect your original pain to return after a few days. If the medial branch block injection is successful, your physician will recommend more longer-lasting therapeutic procedures.
Getting the treatment you need starts with a visit to the Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule an appointment at one of our 24 Metro Atlanta locations to learn more.
Radiofrequency Neurotomy of the Lumbar Facets
During this minimally-invasive procedure, the physician uses heat from radio waves to treat painful facet joints in your lower back. This procedure is also called radiofrequency rhizotomy. It can treat pain that doesn't respond to medications or to physical therapy.
In preparation for the procedure, you lie on your stomach. You are given medicine to make you feel relaxed. The skin and tissue of your back is numbed.
The physician inserts a tube called a "cannula." A video x-ray device called a "fluoroscope" helps guide the cannula to the medial branch nerves in your spine. These tiny nerves carry pain signals from your facet joints to your brain.
The physician inserts an electrode through the cannula. A weak electric jolt is used to test its position. If the jolt recreates the pain but does not cause any other muscular effects, it is positioned correctly. Then the physician uses the electrode to heat the nerve. This disrupts its ability to transmit pain signals. Several nerves may be treated if necessary.
When the procedure is complete, the electrode and cannula are removed. A small bandage is placed on your skin. You will be monitored for a brief time before you are allowed to go home. Your injection site may feel sore after the procedure, and you may still have back pain. If the correct nerves were treated, you will gradually experience pain relief as you heal. This may take several weeks. Your relief may last for several months.
Learn more about the Spine Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.