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Facet joint injection

5-minute read

This page will give you information about a facet joint injection. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a facet joint medial branch block?

A facet joint medial branch block involves injecting local anaesthetics into or around a facet joint to see if this relieves your back pain. Sometimes steroids are also used to reduce inflammation and to make the pain relief last longer.

What are the benefits of a facet joint medial branch block?

A facet joint medial branch block can be used to find out if your pain is caused by your facet joints.

Are there any alternatives to the injection?

An x-ray or scan can show if you have osteoarthritis in one or more of your facet joints.

If you decide not to have an injection, your doctor may be able to suggest other methods of pain relief. You may need more painkillers that are more likely to make you feel sick or drowsy.

Illustration showing a facet joint injection.
a A side view of lumbar vertebrae
b A facet joint infection

What does the procedure involve?

A facet joint medial branch block usually takes less than 30 minutes. Your doctor may use an x-ray to guide them while they give the injection.

Your doctor will carefully insert the needle for the injection. They may inject dye (colourless contrast fluid) and take an x-ray to help them to check that the needle is in the right position. Sometimes your doctor will use an ultrasound scanner to help guide them while they insert the needle.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

  • failure of the injection to relieve your pain
  • worsening pain
  • backache
  • allergic reaction
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • seizures
  • infection around your spine
  • short-term nerve injury
  • visual disturbance or loss of vision
  • long-term nerve injury
  • blood clot around your spine

How soon will I recover?

After a short while you should be able to go home.

Rest if you feel tired.

You should be able to return to normal activities the next day.

Summary

A facet joint medial branch block can be used to find out if your pain is caused by your facet joints, or to treat pain in your facet joints.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

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Last reviewed: September 2021


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