Medial Branch Blocks

What is a Medial Branch Block?

A medial branch nerve block is a procedure in which an anesthetic is injected near small medial nerves connected to a specific facet joint. Typically several levels of the spine are injected in one procedure.

The procedure is primarily diagnostic, meaning that if the patient has the appropriate duration of pain relief after the medial branch nerve block, then he or she may be a candidate for a subsequent procedure – called a medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy (or ablation) – for longer term pain relief.

The medial branch blocks that may be used by California Sports & Spine Institute include:

  • Cervical Medial Branch Block
  • Thoracic Medial Branch Block
  • Medial Branch Block

Facet Joint Injections

At times, a medial branch block is tried after the patient has already been treated with one or more facet joint injections, although this is not always the case. Facet joint injections involve an injection of anti-inflammatory steroid solution directly into the joint. If such an injection confirms the facet joint as the likely source of the patient’s pain, but this injection – along with other treatments (such as physical therapy, manual manipulation, and medications) have not resulted in long-term pain relief, then a medial branch block may be recommended.

As evidence evolves on the efficacy of facet joint injections, a medial branch block may also be considered instead of a facet joint injection. A medial branch block might also be considered first if for any reason the patient cannot tolerate the steroid and/or an injection directly into the facet joint.

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