Medial Branch Blocks (MBBs) are a minimally invasive non-surgical treatment for arthritis-related neck and back pain. This pain management technique works by reducing the painful inflammation and irritation in the facet joints of the spine.


 

Procedure

The facet is a joint that connects one vertebra to another.  During the procedure, your physician will administer a local anesthetic with a small needle to numb the skin at the area of the procedure. The needle is placed over the nerve that provides sensation to the facet joint. This nerve is the Medial Branch.Then your doctor will then inject the needle into or near the target nerve using either fluoroscopy or real-time x-ray. The injection includes both a long-lasting steroid and a local anesthetic like lidocaine. The steroid reduces inflammation and irritation and the anesthetic works to numb the pain. A band-aid is placed over the place of needle entry after the procedure. The procedure typically takes less than an hour and you are able to go home shortly after.

Benefits

The greatest success achieved with the use of Medial Branch Blocks is the rapid relief of symptoms. With pain relief patients are able to resume their normal daily activities, which is often not achieved with oral medications and physical therapy. Another benefit to the use of the MBB is its use as a diagnostic test to see if pain is coming from the joint itself. If your pain disappears with the injection then it is clear that the pain originates from the joint.

Risks

With minimal risks, MBBs are considered an appropriate and safe non-surgical treatment for many patients who suffer from back and neck pain. The associated risks with this procedure involve misplacement of the needle. In order to prevent this problem, many doctors use fluoroscopy to guide their needle. Potential complications associated with the procedure include bleeding, infection, and nerve damage.

The other risks of the MBBs may be directly related to the medication injected. The risks of developing medication side effects are typically much less than in a person taking oral corticosteroids. Some of the potential side effects of corticosteroids include elevated blood sugars, weight gain, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and transient decrease in the immune system. Before receiving a facet injection patients should be assessed by their physician to minimize risks associated with the procedure.

Outcome

MBBs have increased dramatically in the medical population. They are being used more frequently because they have provided successful results in back pain treatment. The duration of pain relief varies from each individual, but if the first MBBs provide relief, then the procedure can be repeated, or facet denervation can be done.