Medial branch block is an outpatient procedures that your doctor may use to diagnose or treat back pain. During the procedure, medication is injected into a nerve (called the medial branch) very close to one of the joints between the vertebrae in the spine, called a facet joint.
Facet joints can become inflamed due to degeneration, a condition called facet arthritis. This type of inflammation can cause back pain. The medications used in the procedure, usually a local anesthetic, an anti-inflammatory drug, or a combination of both, can reduce the inflammation causing the pain, or block the pain signals from reaching the brain.
Commonly used to treat or diagnose pain due to:
- Back pain from arthritic facet joints
What to expect the day of the procedure
When you come in for the procedure, you will have the opportunity to speak with a clinical staff member in order to have any questions answered, and you will sign a consent form. In the procedure room, you will lie on the treatment table, and the area on your body to undergo the treatment will be sterilized. A radiology tech will be present to guide the fluoroscope (x-ray machine) that your doctor will be using to visualize the needle. You will be given a local anesthetic to decrease the pain of the procedure. The needle will be inserted in to your back, and medication will be injected into the medial branch nerve where your doctor thinks the pain is originating.
Some patients may find this procedure to be painful. If you do feel pain, you should tell your doctor, as he may be able to make adjustments to reduce your discomfort. The entire procedure usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. When it is finished, the needle is removed and the site is covered by a sterile bandage. Following the procedure, you will be able to rest in a recovery area. You will be provided with discharge instructions. You will need to have a responsible adult with you to drive you home.
Recovery and Benefits
Recovery after the procedure
You may call Louisiana Pain Specialists if you have any concerns during your recovery from the procedure. It is normal to have some discomfort at the injection site, and this should resolve within 24 hours. You may use pain medicines, ice, and rest to reduce your pain.
It is possible that a medial branch block will provide you with immediate and lasting pain relief. However, the procedure is mainly used to help determine the source of your pain. If you get temporary relief from a series of medial branch blocks, then you have a greater chance of getting good pain relief from a radiofrequency ablation procedure. If you get no relief from a medial branch block, then your doctor may be able to rule out the facet joints as the source of your pain.
You should pay careful attention and record your pain levels after your procedure. This information will help your doctor decide on next steps to take.