Medial Branch Block
FAQS on Medial Branch Blocks
Research has shown 80% of Americans will experience some sort of back pain at one point in their lives. Disorders from the normal wear and tear of aging like facet pain (which can occur at any point of the spine), can affect millions a year.
This number increases in Americans over 50, or young people very active in sports (Interventional spine procedures in athletes 2013). Medial Branch Block treatment is a minimally invasive procedure for diagnosing facet joint disease (or Facet Syndrome) and treating the chronic pain associated with the condition. A Medial Branch Block stops pain by blocking the pain signal from the nerve to the brain.
What conditions are treatable with Medial Branch Blocks?
This injection is used as a diagnostic procedure to determine if facet joint disease is the cause of chronic back pain that a patient may be experiencing. The Medial Branch Block is then used to treat the chronic pain once the correct location for treatment has been identified (Interventional spine procedures in athletes 2 2013).
The procedure has two purposes. One is diagnostic as if it relieves pain then it shows the joint is the cause. The second is therapeutic since in and of itself a medial branch block may provide relief for months at a time!
What can be expected when a patient gets a Medial Branch Block?
When a patient receives a Medial Branch Block there is a reasonable expectation for them to experience significant, if not complete, relief from chronic pain. This may occur after only one treatment but can take multiple treatments before the maximum benefits are realized (Use of medial branch blocks before radiofrequency ablation for lumbar facet joints 2013).
How is the Medial Branch Block performed?
The treatment is a minimally invasive treatment that is conducted as an outpatient procedure. The injection session may take about thirty minutes followed by an observation period of about thirty minutes. The patient lies on an examination table and the area to be injected is cleaned with antiseptic solution. Usually sedation is not necessary for the procedure.
The skin is numbed with a topical anesthetic and then the Medial Branch injection is performed with the aid of a fluoroscope (a type of x-ray machine) or ultrasound to ensure proper placement of the needle (Cervical medial branch block: a novel technique using ultrasound guidance 2013). A mixture of a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid are then injected into the location. Multiple injection sites may be addressed at once but no more than three injections within a six month period should be performed.
How long can the benefits of a block last?
The effects of a Medial Branch Block can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Your level of relief cannot be anticipated due to the fact that people react differently to the medications that are used.
You may experience relief from one treatment or it could take several treatments before the maximum benefit is gained. Most patients do respond to the procedure positively within 2-3 days Transverse process and needles of medial branch block to facet joint as landmarks for ultrasound-guided selective nerve root block 2013).
Large studies have shown the average duration of pain relief to be 3 months. When it wears off, a repeat procedure may be performed, or the person may go on to a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
What risk or side effects are associated with Medial Branch Blocks?
The risks and side effects of a this treatment are very small. It is likely you may experience swelling, bruising, and light bleeding at the injection site. For a few days after a Medial Branch Block it is possible for a patient to experience discomfort or pain at the injection site.
More severe risks are rare but possible. They include negative reactions to the medications, and nerve and tissue damage at the injection site (Effect of medial branch block in chronic facet joint pain for osteoporotic compression fracture: one year retrospective study 2014).
How successful is a Medial Branch Block for the relief of pain?
This treatment is very effective at relieving patient’s chronic pain. Most people that receive the Medial Branch Block injections can regain increased levels of mobility and a higher standard of life due to decreased pain levels ([Analgesic interventions for spinal diseases] 2013).
Over 80% of patients experience substantial relief from medial branch blocks for neck or back pain.
What is the bottom line on the Medial Branch Block?
The bottom line of the procedure is that if you experience chronic pain due to conditions of the vertebra or intervertebral discs you can find relief. To determine if you are a candidate for the Medial Branch Block procedure, discuss the treatment with your Chicago pain management specialist.