Facet joints (also called zygapophyseal joints) are small joints of the spine that provide stability and help guide motion. They are found in the neck (cervical), upper back (thoracic) and lower back (lumbar).
As a result of injury, arthritis or stress on the joints, they can become inflamed and painful.
Facet joint injections offer pain relief by delivering anti-inflammatory medication into the affected area.
When Is This Procedure Conducted?
This procedure is conducted to reduce inflammation and pain related to the facet joints.
It can also help doctors identify exactly if the facet joints are the cause of pain and inflammation.
How Does This Procedure Work?
The procedure takes approximately 15-30 minutes.
It is generally performed with you lying down face down in a CT scanner.
A series of planning images are performed, with the area of needle entry planned on the computer terminal and then marked on your skin. The interventional radiologist will then clean your skin with an antiseptic wash and inject local anaesthetic into the injection site. This results in a stinging sensation, which is temporary until the skin becomes numb, usually taking 10-30 seconds.
A fine needle is then passed through the skin and tissues, constantly manipulated under CT guidance until it enters the facet joint. Injecting a mixture of cortisone and local anaesthetic into the facet joint decreases inflammation and therefore the cause of your pain. Some discomfort will be felt for a short time until the local anaesthetic numbs the area.
How Will I Feel After The Procedure?
If you have selected to be sedated for the procedure, you may feel a bit drowsy and you will require someone to drive you home.
You may feel some minor discomfort in the back, however most patients will be pain free due to the local anaesthetic being injected into the spine.
The following day after the procedure, you will be able to gradually return to your normal activities.
How Successful Is Facet Joint Injections?
The effects of the treatment will vary and it is difficult to predict the duration of pain relief until the procedure is performed.
In some people, pain is relieved for months, others years and still for others it produces no relief at all.
If this procedure is not successful for you, the interventional radiologist can offer alternative treatment, which may include radiofrequency ablation.
Summary of Benefits of Facet Joint Injections
- Temporary pain relief
- Temporary reduction of inflammation in the facet joints
- May help the doctor identify if the facet joints are the source of pain
- Provides with you with a better quality of life; ability to function in daily life without the restrictions previously caused by pain