What Is A Lumbar Medical Branch Block?
A lumbar medial branch block is an injection procedure that pinpoints which facet joint in the low back is causing discomfort. Facet joints are small joints located in between vertebrae that help the spine bend and twist. Each one of these unique joints is surrounded by medial branch nerves, which help carry pain signals from the joints to the brain. Although the purpose of a lumbar medial branch block is to diagnose which facet joint(s) are causing the most pain, this minimally invasive procedure can also provide some pain relief.
Pain in the facet joints usually develops from a spinal condition that causes inflammation. Spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, or degenerative disc disease are just a few conditions that could lead to facet joint pain. Other causes may include trauma or injury to the low back.
What To Expect From The Procedure
The procedure begins with the patient laying face down and with the physician injecting a local anesthetic. This helps minimize the patient’s discomfort during the procedure. The physician will then use a fluoroscope and contrast dye to locate and confirm which medial branch nerves are causing pain.
Once the physician has been able to identify the affected medial branch nerves, he or she will inject an anesthetic into the targeted nerves. Two adjacent medial branch nerves in the spine are usually treated during one injection.
If the patient experiences pain relief immediately after the injection, then the physician can infer the procedure was a success. This diagnostic process will eventually determine whether or not the patient is a candidate for a procedure called radiofrequency neurotomy (ablation). This particular procedure may provide patients with longer pain relief.
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