A medial branch block is used as a diagnostic procedure to determine if the cause of a patient’s pain is due to the bony joints of the spine, known as facet joints.
- The facet joints can be affected by:
- Arthritis of the spine
- Degenerative disc disease
- Facet joint syndrome
A medial branch block is an outpatient procedure that usually only takes a few minutes to complete. The patient will lie on their stomach and be given a local anesthetic to numb the area around the facet joint that will be injected.
Using a fluoroscope (x-ray), the pain doctor will determine the location of the suspected painful facet joint. Once this has been confirmed, an anesthetic medication will be injected around the medial branch nerves, which are associated with the signals to and from the facet joints. This anesthetic temporarily blocks these signals and numbs the responses of these nerves.
Once the procedure is over, the pain doctor will bandage the area, and after a short recovery time, the patient will be allowed to return home. Patients are usually instructed to resume normal activities as soon as possible to determine if the medial branch block is effectively managing their pain. If so, a permanent procedure may be recommended to continue the pain relieving effects. If not, the pain doctor may recommend repetition of the medial branch block to other facet joints to determine the specific cause of pain.
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