Cervical Medial Branch Block

What is a Cervical Medial Branch Block?

A cervical medial branch block is a procedure that involves injecting a local anaesthetic over the cervical medial nerves in order to temporarily relieve pain and irritation by preventing pain signals from radiating from the cervical facet joint.
The medial branch nerves are the tiny nerves stemming from the facet joints responsible for transmitting pain signals from the facet joints and to the brain.  Cervical facet joints, also known as zygapophysial joints or z-joints, are located in the cervical vertebrae of the spine.

When is a Cervical Medial Branch Block Used?

The medial branch block is often used as a way to diagnosis and/or treat pain, inflammation, or other symptoms caused by irritation or damage to the cervical medial nerves located in specific facet joints.
While the procedure is often used as a way to provide temporary relief of pain and discomfort, the primary purpose of a cervical medial block is diagnostic in nature; in other words, once administered, and if the patient experiences short-term symptom relief, a doctor is able to confirm the cervical facet joint(s) as the source of the issue and recommend treatment for long-term relief, including medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy.

How is Cervical Medial Branch Block Administered?

Like most injections involving the spine, a cervical medial branch block is performed under light local anaesthesia.  Using a fluoroscopy, or live x-ray, a physician will direct a tiny needle to the affected medial nerve.  Once in place, a small amount of contrast dye is injected to ensure the treatment is being applied to the correct medial nerve.  Upon confirming the correct nerve(s) is/ are being treated, anaesthesia is injected into the same nerve(s).

What are the Risks Associated with Cervical Medial Branch Block?

Like any medical injection, there are potential risks and complications to be aware of.  While the risk of complications are low and complications associated with cervical medial branch blocks are rare, they can include: allergies, infection, and worsening symptoms – including pain, weakness, and numbing.

How Effective is Cervical Medial Branch Block?

When treating the temporary pain relief associated with a cervical joint injury or medial nerve irritation, cervical medial branch blocks have demonstrated to be very effective.  However, if the nerves receiving the treatment are not the correct source of the transmission of pain signals, there will be no relief of pain or other symptoms causing discomfort.

Dr.Raju Mantena
Dr. Raju Mantena is an anesthesiologist and pain specialist based in the Houston area and has over 15 years of medical experience which he relies upon each day to successfully treat his patients’ acute and chronic pain.

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