About the Examination
A spinal/joint, or facet joint, injection is a procedure used by doctors to diagnose spinal conditions and relieve pain.
During a spinal/joint injection a local anaesthetic is administered to the skin and tissue around the area of interest. Doctors use CT or Fluoroscopic screening, to ensure that the injection is administered precisely and efficiently.
What conditions can be diagnosed by Spinal/Joint Injections?
Spinal/joint injections are commonly used to diagnose the cause of severe back pain and to administer pain relief to patients who suffer from arthritis.
Administering a local anaesthetic allows doctors to determine whether the facet joint is the source of back pain, while injecting medication can offer arthritis patients fast and effective pain relief.
Why are Spinal/Joint Injections required?
Spinal/joint injections are required for patients who suffer from extreme back pain, due to arthritis or other, undiagnosed, conditions.
What are the risks and complications of Spinal/Joint Injections?
Spinal/Joint Injection is a relatively safe procedure. As with other x-ray procedures, there is a risk of radiation exposure, which can lead to cancer. However, patients are typically only exposed to a few seconds of low level radiation in a localised area.
There is also a low risk of infection and bleeding following a spinal/joint injection. Other risks include accidental damage to nearby structures (nerves, blood vessels, etc) and allergic reactions.
About the Equipment
Equipment specifications of Spinal/Joint Injections
A variety of equipment is used to perform a spinal/joint injection procedure including:
- Contrast medium
- Fluoroscopic machine
- Syringe and needle
Alternative for Spinal/Joint Injections
If a spinal/joint injection fails to deliver pain relief or lead to diagnosis, doctors may use any of the following procedures to gather more information:
- Digital x-ray
- CT scan
Preparation for Spinal/Joint Injections
What should a patient tell the Radiographer before Spinal/Joint Injections?
It is important that you are completely healthy when undergoing this procedure. You will need to alert your doctor if:
- You suffer from diabetes
- Are pregnant or think you may be
- Are recovering from surgery or any other illness
- You take any regular medications
- Are taking blood thinning medication (such as aspirin)
What should a patient bring for spinal/joint injections?
You should bring your medications with you, along with any other images or test results your doctor requests.
What should a patient wear for spinal/joint injections
You will need to undress, so you should try and wear something that is comfortable and easy to remove.
You will be provided with a place to change and a hospital gown to wear.
How long will Spinal/Joint Injections take?
The spinal/joint injection procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete.
Spinal/Joint Injections Procedure Description
Once you are ready for the procedure, you will be asked to lie down on your stomach.
A local anaesthetic is applied to the spine, but you will remain awake for the procedure. Before the medication or block is injected, the doctor may administer a contrast medium to the site.
Once the doctor can view the area clearly, they carefully use the images as a guide and inject the block or medication precisely.
Post Spinal/Joint Injections instructions
What are the Recovery Details?
After the procedure you will need to remain in the practice for observation, until the anaesthetic has worn off. This will usually take less than 30 minutes.
Some patients may notice a feeling of weakness, numbness or tingling in their legs, or muscle spasms after the procedure.
You should not engage in strenuous activity, swim or have a bath for the first 24 hours after the procedure, although you are allowed to shower.
Can I Drive Home?
It will not be safe for you to drive for up to 24 hours after the procedure, so you will need to arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up and take you home.
Lumbar Zygapophysial (Facet) Joint Injections. (2009). In Know Your Back.org http://www.knowyourback.org/Pages/Treatments/InjectionTreatments/LZJ_Injections.aspx