Facet joints are small joints at each segment of the spine that provide stability and help guide motion. The facet joints can become painful due to arthritis of the spine, a back injury or mechanical stress of the back. A cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back) or lumbar (lower back) facet joint injection involves injecting a steroid/numbing medication, which can anesthetize the facet joints and block the pain. The pain relief from a facet joint injection is intended to help a patient better tolerate a physical therapy routine to rehabilitate his or her injury or back condition. The Interventional Radiologist identifies swelling or inflammation on the facets by viewing the results of an MRI in addition to performing a clinical exam. Before the procedure, our staff will ask you about taking any "blood thinners" such as aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix or Lovenox. These may need to be stopped prior to the injection. You should also bring someone to drive you home.
The Interventional Radiologist uses x-ray guidance (fluoroscopy) to direct a very small needle into the joint. Contrast is then injected to confirm that the location. A small mixture of anesthetic and steroid is then slowly injected into the joint. You can take your previously prescribed medications for pain if needed. No heavy lifting for 7 days. The benefits include a minimally invasive procedure and minimal procedure time. Risks include infection/bleeding at the insertion site.