Medial branch block is a procedure that involves the injection of anesthetics to the medial branch nerves, which in turn help supply the facet joints. The facet joints are one of many other skeletal support structures that help form and support the spine. Inflammation of the facet joints may occur due to a variety of conditions that may be acute or chronic in nature.
Pain emanating from the facet joints of the lower back may consist of achiness that may protrude towards the buttocks and upper thighs. Physical activity that involves standing or bending backward may worsen the pain. For pain emanating from the facet joints of the neck, the pain may start out in the neck as achiness, then spread throughout the neck and shoulders. The pain may worsen due to movement of the neck.
The actual procedure takes only a couple of minutes, but with preparation, signing the required forms, as well as recovery, it may total up to an hour or slightly more. The injection will make use of a long-acting anesthetic.
Patients undergoing the procedure may experience a slight pinch and burning sensation following the numbing of the skin due to the anesthetic. Patients can also have the option of choosing to undergo the procedure using IV sedation. This will provide them with complete comfort and possible drowsiness. Patients may experience little to no memory of having undergone the procedure.
For injections to the back, the patient will lay on their stomach. For the neck, the patient lay sideways. The patient’s oxygen level, as well as blood pressure, will be monitored. The patient’s skin will be cleaned up with an antiseptic solution prior to the beginning of the procedure. After that small needles are placed at bony landmarks that denote the medial branch nerves. The injection serves more as a diagnostic test, for if the patient experiences relief, the next step may require the radiofrequency lesioning of the medial branch nerve.