Facet Joint Injection

A facet joint injection, or facet block, is a non-surgical procedure in which a combination anesthetic/steroid is delivered directly into a facet joint in the spine that may be causing back or neck pain. The purpose of the anesthetic is to ease the pain; the steroid to relieve inflammation. The effects of the injection may be temporary or permanent, and the procedure also may be used as a diagnostic tool to determine whether the facet joint is the cause of the pain.


What Is A Facet Joint Injection?

Facet joints connect the vertebrae, and provide for the stability and flexibility of the spine. There are two facet joints between each pair of vertebrae, one on each side. Facet joints link each vertebra to those directly above and below it, and allow the vertebral bodies to rotate with respect to each other. Cartilage in the joints allows for smooth movement where vertebral bones meet, and each is lined with a thin membrane called the synovium, which produces synovial fluid for lubrication.

If the facet joints and the tissues around them become inflamed and swollen, these irritated structures can compress one or more spinal nerve roots. The result may be localized and/or radiating pain and other symptoms, such as numbness and muscle weakness.

A facet joint injection, or facet block, is a non-surgical procedure in which a combination anesthetic/steroid is delivered directly into a facet joint in the spine that may be causing back or neck pain. The purpose of the anesthetic is to ease the pain; the steroid to relieve inflammation. The effects of the injection may be temporary or permanent, and the procedure also may be used as a diagnostic tool to determine whether the facet joint is the cause of the pain.


Why Do I Need This Procedure?

There are a variety of spinal conditions that may cause pain and irritation of the facet joints. They include:


A facet injection is typically recommended for patients with radiating pain, and whose symptoms have not responded to other conservative therapies, such as medication, rest, exercise/activity modification, physical therapy or bracing.


How Is A Facet Joint Injection Administered?

During a facet joint injection, the anesthetic/steroid solution is delivered via a very thin needle, guided by fluoroscopy (a specialized X-ray camera), into the capsule that surrounds the facet joint or in the tissue around the joint capsule. This is different from an epidural spinal injection, in which the injection is placed in the epidural space of the spinal cord, located between the dura (the protective membrane that surrounds the spinal cord and nerves) and the bone of the vertebral canal.

Facet injections are typically performed on an outpatient basis and usually take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Only local anesthesia is required, and most patients are able to walk immediately after the procedure without using a recovery room or hospitalization. You’ll be monitored for a short period of time before you will be released, and you should have a responsible adult on hand to drive you to and from your procedure. You also should arrange to take it easy for at least 24-36 hours after the injection, to allow the anti-inflammatory medicine to take effect.


Are There Any Potential Risks Or Complications?

As with any spinal procedure, there is some risk involved. Potential side effects of a facet injection may include:


Adverse effects (usually temporary) related to the cortisone/steroid component of the injection may include:


Facet injections should not be performed on those with an active infection or who are on blood thinning medication, or who are pregnant. If you have any major/chronic medical issues (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders), please consult with both your primary physician/specialist and the doctor who will be giving you the injection prior to your procedure.

Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse effects, clinical results and other important medical information that pertains to a facet injection.

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