As with all invasive medical procedures, there are potential risks and complications associated with medial branch blocks. However, in general the risk is low and complications are rare.

See Facet Joint Injections and Medial Branch Blocks

Potential risks and/or complications that may occur from a medial branch injection include:

  • Allergic reaction. The potential allergy is usually to the X-ray contrast solution and rarely to local anesthetic
  • Bleeding. A rare complication, bleeding is more common for patients with underlying bleeding disorders
  • Infection. Minor infections occur in less than 1% to 2% of all injections. Severe infections are rare, occurring in 0.01% to 0.1% of injections

    See more about Spinal Infections

  • Worsening of pain symptoms
  • Discomfort at the point of the injection
  • Nerve or spinal cord damage or paralysis. While very rare, damage can occur from direct trauma from the needle, or secondarily from infection, bleeding resulting in compression, or injection into an artery causing blockage.

Patients who are on a blood thinning medication (such as Plavix® or Coumadin®) should notify their treating provider and discuss whether or not to discontinue the medication prior to the injection.

Patients with an active infection may not be able to have this procedure, and should discuss their specific situation with the treating physician.

Patients should also let their doctor know of any allergies they have to medications, especially allergies to medications that may be used for the procedure.

Dr. Ray Baker is an anesthesiologist specializing in interventional pain medicine and non-surgical spine care. He has more than 25 years of clinical experience serving on staff in hospitals and medical centers in Washington state.

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