Cervical Medial Branch Ablation

A cervical medial branch ablation is used to see if the pain is coming from a specific cervical facet joint. Facet joints are joints between vertebrae in the spine, from the neck to the lower back. These joints allow the spine to flex, bend, and twist.

Damage to the medial branch nerves in the spine prevents the pain signal from traveling and in many cases provides pain relief to patients.

If the cervical medial branch block provides good relief, a longer-lasting cervical radiofrequency ablation procedure is performed. Eventually, the damaged nerves grow back, and the procedure is repeated.

How is a cervical medial branch ablation procedure performed?

Nerve ablation is done in the same way as diagnostic blocks are done. A fluoroscope, a type of x-ray, is used by the doctor to direct a thin hollow needle into the painful region. Fluoroscopy allows the doctor to check the needle in real-time on the fluoroscope display to make sure it’s in the correct position.

Doctors inject contrast to ensure the needle is in the right position. There is some discomfort, but most patients report feeling more pressure than pain. The patient is given a numbing injection once the needle is in place. The hollow needle is then transmitted to a radiofrequency current, which creates a minute precise burn called a lesion, approximately the size of a cotton pot. The current kills the part of the nerve that transmits pain and disturbs the signal that causes pain. It takes approximately 90 seconds per spot and burns a large number of fats simultaneously.

Radiofrequency ablation can benefit patients with adequate pain relief after injecting the diagnostic nerve or the pain receptor block. Radiofrequency ablation is performed based on x-ray fluoroscopic directives and is not recommended for persons with a disorder, embarrassment, or bleeding problems.

Benefits of cervical medial branch ablation

Pain relief will last anywhere from nine months to two years. It’s conceivable that the nerve can regrow from the radiofrequency ablation-created burned lesion. It usually takes 6-12 months for the nerve to regrow after the operation. In people who have had successful nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation is 70-80% effective. If necessary, the surgeons can repeat the process when necessary.

What are the potential dangers?

Radiofrequency nerve ablation is a reasonably healthy procedure with a low chance of side effects. Complications reported by the University of Michigan, include temporary nerve pain, neuritis, neuroma, localized numbness, infection, allergic reaction to medications used during the procedure, and lack of pain relief in less than 30% of patients. Pain relief following medical branch ablations usually lasts for 1 to 3 weeks following injection.

It is recommended by Michigan Medicine that patients stay several days before going back to regular work. Patients may participate in everyday tasks for the first few days but should be driven by pain levels. Since those suffering from back pain have been de-conditioned due to their pain for many months or years, medial branch ablation patients at Ceda Orthopedic Group are typically prescribed a physical treatment routine to improve their strength and tolerance safely after the procedure.

How Ceda Orthopedic Group performs cervical medial branch ablation

Prior to the procedure, patients are injected with a fluid that numbs the neck. The fluids act as a pain reliever for the patient. The injection typically consists of a mixture of a local anesthetic and cortisone. The anesthetic reduces swelling while the cortisone numbs the discomfort. If the operation relieves the discomfort, the doctor knows which nerve is causing the problem and should be treated.

The cervical nerve block may be all that is needed in some cases. Its effects wear off in other situations. A patient’s reaction to radiofrequency ablation will likely be positive if a cervical block successfully numbed the pain. If it doesn’t, the patient is unlikely to benefit from radiofrequency ablation.

Book a cervical medial branch ablation appointment with Ceda Orthopedic Group

If you are considering medial branch ablation to help relieve your back discomfort, speak with the orthopedic surgeons at Ceda Orthopedic Group. We will guide and advise you on the risks and pre-surgery preparations you need for medial branch ablation surgery. We can also recommend the best physical therapy and what you can do to avoid the recurrence of the condition.

Don’t have transportation? No problem! Make sure to mention it when you give us a call. We can help you get to us, book an appointment today and learn how Ceda Orthopedic Group can help relieve your back pain or discomfort.

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