Medial branch nerve block injections are used to treat pain caused by facet joint inflammation. A local anesthetic will be injected into the medial branch nerves, and within ten minutes, the pain posed by the swelling is relieved.
What is it?
Medial branch nerves support the facet joints in the spine; joints that allow a person to bend and twist their back. Sometimes, due to acute or chronic conditions, these joints become inflamed and cause discomfort and pain. Medial Branch Nerve Block injections are a diagnostic procedure used to identify the particular source of pain for later interventions. A block injection will inject a long lasting local anesthetic into the nerves that can relieve this pain and provide immediate relief, indicating where the source of the damage is.
What should I do to prepare?
Your doctor may ask you to discontinue certain medications, and will need to stop taking NSAIDs or other blood thinners. You also may not be able to eat or drink for a certain amount of time before the procedure if you plan to go under IV sedation. You should arrange for transportation home after the procedure in case of soreness or discomfort.
What happens during the process?
The patient will lie in a prone position (on their stomach) in the procedure room, and the physician will administer a local anesthetic. A patient may also choose to go under IV sedation for this procedure. Once the injection site is identified and cleaned with antiseptic, needles will be placed along landmarks for the medial nerve branches. A small amount, about .3 mL, of anesthetic will be injected into each landmark. This procedure only takes a few minutes and will not require a hospital stay.
What are the risks and potential complications?
There are possible risks following a medial branch nerve block injection. However, the complication rates from this procedure, in particular, are minuscule. They include allergic reactions to the x-ray contrast or steroid, bleeding, which is usually only a risk for those with underlying bleeding disorders, minor discomfort at the injection site, and spinal cord damage or paralysis, although this is extremely rare.
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