FAQ’s on Medial Branch Block
What is a Medial Branch Block?
The medial nerve branches are small extensions of a regular nerve that ‘branch’ off from the main nerve root. These branches provide sensation to the spinal joints and the joint capsule. They have no motor function at all.
Facet joints are small bones – normally only the size of a thumbnail –that are located on each side of the spine and assist in providing mobility. These small joints are what allow the vertebrae to flex and bend in a functional manner, with the medial nerve branches serving to provide a nervous connection to them.
What will a Medial Branch Block treat?
Patients who are experiencing pain related to the facet joints may be able to obtain pain relief with this block. Primarily, patients will experience symptomatic pain when there is arthritis of the facet joints. Direct injury to these joints, or long time degeneration may lead to neck or back pain from the facet joint disease.
How is a Medial Branch Block performed?
There are two separate reasons the MBB procedure is performed. The first is as a diagnostic test to see if the facet joint is the actual cause for the pain. The second is as a therapeutic block for providing relief. The procedure is performed the same way for either reason, and usually the procedure serves both purposes.
To perform either of the blocks, the patient will be placed in the prone position to provide the Denver pain management doctor ready access to the spine. The area to be used as an injection site will be sterilized and numbed, with the injection of the needle guided by fluoroscopy.
Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique involving the use of repeated X-rays to create a current image of the needle within the patient, and through this the physician is able to ensure accuracy. Once the needle has been seated into the area around the medial branches, contrast dye is injected to ensure accuracy.
A medial branch block actually involves placing numbing medicine plus/minus steroid into two areas, since there is a nerve supply above and below into the joint.
How well do Medial Branch Blocks work?
Many patients will notice an immediate effect on their symptoms once this block is administered, provided the correct nerve was blocked. The majority of patients who undergo this procedure will be able to obtain fast relief, with the effects of a therapeutic block lasting three months on average.
Patients who find pain relief with this block may be able to have the procedure repeated, and may be suggested for other procedures depending on the amount of pain relief achieved. Patients obtaining 50-80% pain relief with this block are eligible for a radiofrequency ablation of the medial branches.
What are the risks of a Medial Branch Block?
There is very little risk with this procedure, thanks to the fluoroscopic imaging used during the placement of the needle. There is a small chance of allergic reaction to the agent used, as well as redness or soreness at the injection site. Other risks are present if the needle is placed incorrectly, but these occurrences are rare.
What is the bottom line with Medial Branch Blocks?
This is a simple and safe outpatient procedure that is able to provide relief for many patients. For some, it is an important step in the pain management process in an effort to achieve back or neck pain relief and avoid the need for surgery.
The top Board Certified Denver pain management clinic is Colorado Pain, with several locations accepting most insurance. The pain management doctors in Denver perform all types of interventional procedures such as medial branch blocks, radiofrequency ablation and spinal cord stimulator implants.
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