Medial Branch Blocks
Treatments for pain caused by facet joints in the back, neck, or thoracic spine
Medial branch blocks are performed to disrupt pain signals sent from the medial branch nerves, which supply the facet joint. These blocks can be used independently to provide long-term pain relief. They can also be used to precisely identify the facet joints as the cause of pain, and are the preliminary procedure prior to radiofrequency neurotomy of the medial branch nerves.
The facet joints are the small joints located between each vertebra that provide the spine with both stability and flexibility. Facet syndrome occurs when one or more of these joints become inflamed or irritated.
What is a medial branch block?
A medial branch block interrupts the sensory nerve supply to the involved facet joint through the use of a precise administration of an anesthetic agent and steroid. After a local skin anesthetic is applied, the physician uses fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance to place a needle along the nerves that supply the inflamed joint.
How long does it take?
Medial branch blocks are performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure typically requires 30 minutes, including preparation time. It is followed by 30 minutes of observed recovery time.
How often should this procedure be done?
Medial branch blocks in one area are generally limited to three within a six month time frame. In many instances, only one or two injections are required to obtain benefit.
What are the expected results?
Medial branch blocks have been performed safely for many years with excellent outcomes. The benefit from this procedure will typically occur several minutes following the procedure. The patient is asked to record pain levels during the first days of the procedure to ensure accurate diagnosis of the facet joints as the pain source.
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