Medial branch blocks are performed as part of a diagnostic approach to chronic back pain. Medial branch nerves are very small nerve branches that carry pain messages from facet joints to the brain where they are experienced. The facet joints are small joints in the back of the spine that form connections between each vertebra. If these nerves are blocked or numbed, they will not be able to transfer the painful sensation from the joints to the brain. If a patient experiences pain relief when an anesthetic is injected into the nerves of the facet joint, the joint can be confirmed to be the source of the pain.
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The cause of back pain is often difficult to diagnose, and facet injections, or medial branch blocks, are one way to identify why back pain is occurring in order to treat it. The procedure will likely be conducted after a patient has tried other ways to achieve pain relief such as anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy.
You will likely not need any anesthesia for a medial branch block, but you may be given something to help you relax. Using fluoroscopy, or guided x-ray, your surgeon will place a small needle into the facet joint and deliver a small amount of numbing medicine around the nerve. After you have been given the injection, the doctor will assess your pain level. If it has significantly decreased, you will know that the nerves in your facet joint are contributing to your pain, which may indicate that you are a good candidate for a rhizotomy, which is a more permanent way to diminish or eliminate back pain. If you benefit from the procedure, the next step would be consideration for radiofrequency treatment of the medial branch nerves. This a procedure that will provide pain relief for a longer period of time.
The effect will last several hours or more. Since this is strictly a diagnostic block to test the source of pain, it is very important for patients to fill out their pain log that they receive following their procedure. Once the aesthetic wears off the pain will likely return and a patient may have some increased soreness for a day or two.
It has become a standard for the insurance coverage that you need to have two medial branch block injections with a certain level of improvement post injection. Only one level will be done at the time with a minimum of 7-10 days between levels.
The risk of complications is very low, however, potential risks might include:
*Pricing Disclaimer - The prices for the procedures listed on this website are estimates only and can change without warning. These estimates include Yellowstone Surgery Center facility fees only. It is difficult for Yellowstone Surgery Center to know exactly what your doctor will do in your surgery. Any variation in the procedure, surgery time (for anesthesia only), or implants used can mean a difference in price.
A list of what is NOT included in the fee is as follows:
Not included are the fees from your surgeon and their provider office. The fees generated from Anesthesia Partners of Montana. If applicable to your procedure, pathology is not included. Any diagnostic studies necessary prior to the surgery such as lab, MRI, X-rays, consultations with specialists to determine medical risk/management, physical therapy and rehabilitation. Lodging and travel expenses are not included in the price of the procedures. Expenses or fees resulting from complications subsequent to the completion of the surgery are also not included. The list of procedures on this website is a partial list of procedures available.
What if my procedure isn't listed? Yellowstone SurgeryCenter lists several of our most common surgical and pain procedures and are continually adding new ones. If the procedure you are looking for isn't listed, you can use our online price estimation tool.
18 years and older
Currently Yellowstone Surgery Center is not allowing visitors to stay in the building. Our staff will call when it is time for visitors to pick up their loved one. Once discharged, visitors of the patient will not need to re-enter the building. Discharge instructions will be provided over the phone, and patients will be wheel chaired out to the vehicle for pick up.
Younger than 18
A parent or legal guardian must stay in the building at all times. Yellowstone Surgery Center prefers one, however, we will allow for two.
If you have a mask, please wear it during your time at Yellowstone Surgery Center. If you do not have a mask, Yellowstone Surgery Center will provide one.
A COVID-19 test will be required prior to elective surgery. This will be arranged through Surgeon’s offices four days in advance of the date of surgery.