A facet medial branch nerve block is a diagnostic test injection. It helps determine if pain is coming from the facet joints in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine.
Medial branch nerves can be safely anesthetized or ablated. Risks of complication from this procedure are low and include bleeding, infection, discomfort at the point of injection or nerve damage.
For the procedure, you will lie face down on an X-ray table, and your back is scrubbed with an antibacterial cleanser. Your physician uses an X-ray camera to identify the targets for injection. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin.
Thin needles are placed next to the medial branch nerves. Contrast dye is injected to confirm the medication will go to the correct spot, and then the numbing medication is injected. The procedure usually takes 15 minutes.
Most people feel some immediate relief from the numbing medication. If you get significant relief from this injection, then a radiofrequency ablation may be considered for longer-term pain relief. Most insurance companies require two sets of diagnostic facet medial branch blocks before an ablation is approved.
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