Facet Joint Injection

Facet Joint Injection

PLEASE NOTE:  Gold Coast Spine does not perform these investigations, we are supplying information for your reference only.

What are a Facet Joint Injection and/or Medial Branch Block?

This procedure is performed by a radiologist and involves an injection (of long acting corticosteroids and/or local anaesthetic) in to the facet joints of the spine or the medial branch nerves. There are two facet joints attached to each vertebral body of the spine and they are notorious pain producers. The medial branch nerves supply each facet joint. The injections aim to reduce pain caused by these joints.  This procedure can, therefore, be both diagnostic and therapeutic:

  • Diagnosis:  if the injection relieves your pain this suggests the facet joints are the source of the pain.
  • Therapy:  the injections can be used to treat the pain originating from these joints as the pain relief obtained can last from weeks to months.

How do I prepare for my Facet Joint Injection and/or Medial Branch Block?

Please let the person arranging your injection know if you:

  • Take blood thinners or antidepressants
  • Are a diabetic or asthmatic
  • Are allergic to seafood, iodine, betadine, local anaesthetics or steroids

Please remember to bring any relevant radiology scans with you to the procedure and to bring your referral.

How are a facet joint injection and/or Medial Branch Block done?

You will be awake for the injection and you will be laying face down on an x-ray table. Your back will be cleaned and prepped and a local anaesthetic will be injected. The injections in to the facet joints and/or medial branch nerves will then occur under X-ray or CT guidance. Multiple injections may be performed, with the procedure usually taking 15-30 minutes.

What can I expect after the Facet Joint Injection and/or Medial Branch Block?

You will stay in a recovery area for a short period of time for some monitoring and you then will be discharged home. It is recommended that you have someone drive you home. You are typically fine to resume all normal activities the following day.

If a steroid was injected you may expect a delay in any pain relief and some people experience some mood changes or flushing of their face for a few days.

You will be given a pain chart to complete during the post-operative period – remember to complete this and bring to your surgeon at your next appointment.   

What are the risks of Facet Joint Injections and/or Medial Branch Blocks?

Common side effects of this procedure include some bruising at the injection sites and some initial pain/discomfort from the injections after the local anaesthetic wears off.  Rare side effects include:

  • infection
  • headache
  • allergic reactions
  • Steroid side effects including a rise in blood sugar levels (especially in diabetics)
  • Nerve damage or damage to other surrounding structures

The use of a CT scan during the procedure also raises the risk of exposure to a small amount of radiation.

Delivery of Results

Following your injection, the radiologist will report on the injection performed and the CT scan taken will be delivered to your surgeon with the report. This delivery generally takes several days.