What is a facet joint injection?

The facet joints are the articulations between vertebral bodies that allow the vertebral column (spine) to move. Conditions such as degenerative arthritis and inflammation of the facet joints can cause pain.

The injection your doctor has requested is a mixture of local anaesthetic and steroid (an anti-inflammatory medication). The injection is intended to relieve pain by decreasing facet joint nerve activity and reduce inflammation allowing increased mobility.

Patient preparation

There is no specific preparation. However, please let us know if you take blood-thinning medication for example Aspirin, Warfarin, Dabigatran or Clopidogrel, or if you have any allergies. You may need to have a blood clotting test before the procedure and have your medication adjusted by your doctor.

What will happen during the examination?

You will be asked to change into a gown and to lie face down on the CT examination table. The procedure is performed under sterile conditions with the skin in the area to be injected cleansed. CT imaging is used to accurately locate the area to be injected and to guide the needle. It is important you keep as still as possible during the procedure.

A radiologist (specialist medical imaging doctor) will position the needle within the facet joint using CT guidance and inject the steroid and local anaesthetic.

The needle is then removed and a sterile dressing applied.

Are there any risks?

You will receive a small dose of x-ray radiation. However, please advise the radiographer if you are, or think you may be pregnant.

Complications such as infection, allergy, bleeding are considered to be very rare.

After the examination

You may experience some soreness or bruising at the needle site and, rarely, minor muscle spasm. You may also experience some temporary numbness at the injection site and down your affected leg. A temporary increase in back pain may be felt due to the extra pressure of the injection solution in your facet joint.

Once you are feeling comfortable you may leave. You may need someone to drive you home after the procedure. Please consider this when making your appointment. We advise you not to perform any lifting or physical activities that may aggravate your condition for at least 12 hours after the procedure.