Facet joints are located in the spine. They allow the body to perform normal functions such as bending and twisting. Facet nerve blocks involves the injection of anesthetics that are used to provide blockage to the nerves that help supply the facet joints. They help provide pain relief on a temporary basis but more importantly, help to ascertain the origin of the pain.
The facet nerve blocks procedure is performed in our office and usually takes approximately 15-30 minutes, not including the prep work that is done. Patients may have IV cords attached to them to provide minor levels of sedation. Depending on the type of nerve block procedure being done, patients may be required to have pillows placed beneath certain areas of the body. For example, for a facet nerve block in the lower back region, patients will have pillows situated beneath their hips. For facet nerve blocks in the neck region, patients will have pillows beneath their chest area.
The injection areas will be cleaned using antiseptics and sterilized properly prior to the injection. Patients may experience a burning and stinging sensation due to the anesthesia taking effect. The patient’s blood pressure and oxygen level will also be monitored as well. A fluoroscopy will be used as a reference point for the injection of the needle into the appropriate facet joint. Bony landmarks will be used to ascertain the location of the nerves. Each procedure may witness the injections of 4-5 nerve levels.
Generally two facet nerve block procedures are done in order to properly diagnose the origins of the pain, whether they are from the facet joints or not. If the two procedures are successful, patients will undergo a radiofrequency lesioning of the facet nerves in order to provide long-term pain relief as opposed to the temporary relief provided by the facet nerve blocks.
Patients will be monitored for a period of 15-30 minutes for any possible after-effects from the injections. It is recommendable that the patient arrange for someone to drive them to and from the clinic. Failure to arrange such accommodations may result in the rescheduling of the procedure.