What are Facet Injections?
Facet injections, otherwise known as “facet blocks” are a common treatment done to reduce the inflammation and swelling of tissue in and around the facet joints. Facet joints are located in between each set of vertebrae along the spine from the head all the way down to the tailbone. They allow the vertebrae to move well with the connecting vertebrae above and below each joint in the spine.
The injections are commonly given for neck or back pain, and can help with symptoms related to arthritic joints. Numbing medication is administered through a needle using fluoroscopy guidance, and is injected near the affected joint. A small amount of cortisone may be used as well. When the medication is given, it helps by reducing inflammation in and around the surrounding tissues, thereby relieving pain.
Preparation – The patient’s vital signs are taken, and pre-op paperwork is completed.
The patient is brought into the procedure room where they lie face down on a stretcher. A blanket and/or pillow can be used for comfort. The skin area of injection is then cleansed, using betadine or alcohol.
Injecting the Medication – The physician uses an X-ray device called a fluoroscope to carefully guide a needle into the affected areas. Once visual confirmation is done, the physician then injects a mix of medication around the irritated areas to calm and ease the pain. The numbing medication works by blocking pain caused by nerves or arthritic joints, thus providing relief.
End of Procedure – The needle is removed, and sometimes a small band aid is placed at the injection site. There is no drainage or bleeding after. The patient is monitored for a short period and then discharged home via wheelchair. You may resume normal activities as tolerated and there is little to no down time at all. The entire procedure usually takes around 15 minutes or less.
What to Expect Afterwards
Pain relief – usually occurs instantly or within 24 hours. It can last for several days, if not longer. The procedure may be repeated for full beneficial relief. You should follow up with your doctor in two weeks after your injections are completed. Facet injections are sometimes a diagnostic test as well as a treatment to directly pin-point where pain is originating from. Facet injections may be followed with a long lasting procedure called a rhizotomy if indicated, or sometimes a more permanent procedure to fuse the involved joints under X-ray guidance.
Side Effects? – Some mild irritation to the injected area and affected nerves may occur for up to 72 hours after the procedure. It is not uncommon to have a burning or tingling sensation on the day of injection. Please call the office immediately if you have any concerns regarding side effects or have any questions following your injection at 504-340-6976.