Medial Branch Block

Information for Patients

Facet joints are the small joints at the back of the spine. They are the same in nature as the major joints in the body e.g. knee and hip. As such they undergo arthritic and degenerative change. Approximately 40 – 50% of back pain comes from the facet joints, especially in senior citizens. 

This procedure involves the injection of local anaesthetic to the nerve to the small joints (facet joints) at the back of my spine and is performed to relieve pain and assess suitability for later radiofrequency neurotomy.  The injection is thought to act through a variety of mechanisms. It is thought that the local anaesthetic alters pain signals and decreases pain from the joint.

On average most patients get three to nine months relief of pain with most patients getting on average six months of relief. Some patients however get minimal relief from the procedure

If the procedure is successful then a more permanent procedure can be performed, radiofrequency neurotomy. For more information discuss this with your pain specialist.

This procedure is performed as a day patient. You will be prepared for theatre and placed in a theatre gown. Once you are on the operating table, the anaesthetist will place a cannulae in your arm and sedative drugs will be administered.

The procedure is performed under sterile conditions. A fine needle is inserted under X-ray control into the facet joints and local anaesthetic and steroid injected.

Cervical Spine

Before your procedure

  • Have nothing to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to the procedure
  • Arrange for an adult to escort you home by car
  • Please notify your doctor if you are taking any blood thinning medications

Following your procedure

  • You will usually be discharged after two – three hours
  • Do not drive or operate heavy  machinery
  • You will have minor bruising and pain around the injection site
  • Please make an appointment to see me 2 – 4 weeks following the procedure

Complications of Medial Branch Block

  • Pain and bruising over the injection site
  • Potential risk of nerve and spinal cord injury
  • Potential risk of introduction of infection
  • Bleeding into the spinal area
  • No or partial response to the procedure