Cervical Medial Branch Block

What Are Cervical Medial Branch Blocks?

Cervical medial branch blocks are diagnostic injections used in patients who suffer from chronic neck, upper back, shoulder, and headache pain. These injections contain an anesthetic that is applied to the medial branch nerves located near the facet joints of the cervical spine. These nerves are responsible for transmitting pain signals from the joints to the brain. When they are blocked with local anesthetic, the pain transmission is interrupted, and pain is reduced. When the facet joints become inflamed, patients may experience neck pain, especially with activities such as looking up, left and right. Anesthetic such as bupivacaine is used to block the medial branches of few joints in the cervical spine, therefore improving range of motion and reducing pain. The effect may last for few days up to few weeks. If the pain relief is significant, but temporary, patients will than be candidate for a radio frequency ablation, or also called Neurotomy, which will provide pain relief that may last much longer. 

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Am I a candidate for a cervical medial branch block ?

If you have chronic pain that seems to radiate across the upper back or neck, perhaps worsening when you move your neck to the side or up and down, you may be a candidate for a cervical medial branch block. It is impossible to know for sure whether one of these injections will be right for you, and often medial branch blocks are used as diagnostic tools to determine whether pain is the result of facet joint inflammation or some other cause. The results obtained after an initial injection are usually an indication of whether additional medial branch blocks or radiofrequency nerve ablation could be beneficial.

What should I expect during a cervical medial branch block treatment?

Cervical medial branch blocks are outpatient procedures that usually take less than a half hour to complete from start to finish.  The procedure will be performed in a surgical center, with use of fluoroscopy (X-ray camera) to accuracy and precision. Patients may receive light sedation for a more comfortable and relaxed experience.  A very fine needle will be placed at a specific site close to the facet joint where the medial branch block is located.  Once the needles are placed, the medication is injected and needles are removed.

What types of results can I expect from my medial branch block?

Patients are monitored for 30 minutes after the procedure, and than discharged home. If patients receive any sedation during the procedure, than they will need a driver to take them home. Most patients are able to return to normal activity the following day.  Many patients feel significant pain relief shortly after the injection, but it may sometimes take up to 48hrs to notice significant improvement. The results will vary, and may last for few days up to few weeks. Some patients will not experience significant pain relief with the blocks, which will be discussed in detail with your doctor.

What Are the risks involved with cervical medial branch blocks?

Cervical medial Branch block is performed by highly trained Pain Management Specialists at RA Pain Services, and complications related to the procedure are rare. The most common post procedure complaint is mild soreness around the injection site. However, although complications are extremely rare, they may occur and can include infection, nerve injury and bleeding.

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