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Cervical Facet Joint Injection

What does “Cervical Facet Joint Injection” mean?

Here is what each word means:

  1. Cervical: area of the spine located in the neck
  2. Facet Joint: the small joint located on each side of the back of the spine

Altogether, “Cervical Facet Joint Injection” means injecting medication into the small joints located on the back of the neck.

Why is a Cervical Facet Joint Injection done?

Cervical facet joint injections are usually done to relieve pain and inflammation of the joint by injecting anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes the injection is done to diagnose if the pain is actually coming from the joint.

What is the difference between a Cervical Medial Branch Block, a Cervical Facet Joint Jnjection and a Cervical Radiofrequency Rhizotomy of the facet joint?

  1. A Cervical Medial Branch Block is an injection which uses local anesthetic to anesthetize the nerves traveling to the facet joint. This is done to help diagnose if the pain is coming from the facet joint.
  2. A Cervical Facet Joint Injection is done to deliver medication into the facet joint to help with pain and inflammation.
  3. A Cervical Radiofrequency Rhizotomy of the Facet Joint uses targeted heat energy to disrupt the small nerves traveling to the facet joint. The goal is to provide the patient with long lasting pain relief.

How is a Cervical Facet Joint Injection done?

Here are some of the steps of how a Cervical Facet Joint Injection is done:

  1. The procedure is usually done in a Procedure Room or Operating Room.
  2. The patients often receive relaxing medication (sedation) through an intravenous catheter (IV).
  3. The patient is positioned on their stomach (prone) or on their back (supine) with the head turned. This is dependent on the preference of the doctor.
  4. The neck is cleaned with a surgical antiseptic and sheets (drapes) are placed around the area to keep it clean.
  5. An X-Ray machine (C-Arm) is used to locate the facet joints in the spine.
  6. A small amount of local anesthetic may be injected under the skin.
  7. A specialized needle (spinal or procedure needle) is placed through the skin and advance into the joint with the help of the X-Ray machine.
  8. Sometimes a small amount of contrast material (fluid which looks dark on an X-Ray) is injected through the needle to verify that the tip is in the joint.
  9. At this point medication is injected into the joint. This could be a local anesthetic alone when the procedure is done to see if the joint is responsible for pain. Alternatively, a steroid or other medication in combination with a local anesthetic can be injected.

Some doctors use medications which cause inflammation to treat this joint. This is called Prolotherapy. The idea is that causing inflammation will make the body send healing factors to the area which could “regenerate” the joint.

  1. The needle is withdrawn.
  2. A band-aid is placed over the puncture.
  3. The patient is taken to a Recovery Area to be monitored.

How long does it take to do a Cervical Facet Joint Injection?

A cervical facet joint injection can take 5-15 minutes depending on the number of joints injected.

How much benefit can patients gain from a Cervical Facet Joint Injection?

The benefit from spine injections can vary. If the facet joint is the source of pain, facet joint injections can help for weeks to months. They may be partially effective or completely eliminate the pain.