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Jargon buster

facet joints

Facet joints occur in pairs at the back of each vertebra linking them to form a working unit allowing movement of the spine. The structure of the facet joint is identical to other joints in the body, such as knees and hips.

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Facet Joint Injection

Contact: (0191) 256 3347 - Neuroradiology

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

Why do I need this injection?

You have pain in the back, leg or arm possibly caused by wear and tear in the facet joints in the spine. Injecting the facet joint can help relieve the pain.

What is the aim of the treatment?

The aim of a facet joint injection is to give local anaesthetic and a long acting steroid close to the nerve root as it leaves the spine. This produces an anti-inflammatory effect and can relieve the arm or leg pain.

Facet joint injections can be used in two ways:

  • As a diagnostic tool to confirm whether the facet joint is the cause of the limb pain. 
  • As a treatment for the pain, repeated as necessary.

How long will the pain relief last for?

Pain relief varies for each individual. Your pain may: 

  • be relieved completely and not return
  • be reduced for several weeks and then return, but is not as bad 
  • be reduced for several weeks but return as bad as it was.

About your appointment 

The procedure is done as an outpatient appointment. You will be in the department for about 1–1½ hours in total.

We advise that you do not drive for 24 hours following the injection and you should therefore arrange alternative transport. 

You should take your usual medications, if you prescribed Warfarin, you must telephone to let the nursing staff know before the appointment date.

Before your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

Do I  need to contact the hospital about my appointment?

Once you have received your appointment letter, please telephone us on (0191) 282 5413 if you need to change your appointment or if you have any further questions or concerns.

What happens when I arrive at the hospital?

  • Please report to the admissions office at the entrance to the main corridor of Newcastle General Hospital and then continue to the reception desk in Neuroradiology (situated on the ground floor of the Regional Neurosciences Centre).  A radiology nurse will come to meet you.
  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and pyjama bottoms and the nurse will complete a checklist.
  • The radiologist will explain the procedure to you, answer your questions and ask you to sign a consent form. A pen mark will be made on the area to be injected.

During your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

How is the injection performed?

  • You will be asked to lie face down on the x-ray couch, whilst the area to be injected is cleaned with antiseptic solution.
  • The skin numbed with some local anaesthetic - this stings a little at first.
  • Using x-ray guidance, a fine needle is inserted into the exit hole of the nerve root suspected to be the cause of the pain. A small amount of local anaesthetic and the long acting steroid (depot steroid triamcinolone) is then injected around the nerve root.


After your procedureShow [+]Hide [-]

What happens after the injection?

  • Following the injection, you will be asked to sit on the side of the x-ray couch and then to stand. You will then be given a seat back in the day unit for approximately 30 minutes after which time you should be able to go home.
  • You may notice that your leg or arm feels slightly warm and numb for a few hours afterwards.
  • You will be given a pain chart to complete at home. The radiology nurse will explain how to fill this in. We will ask you to send a completed copy to the radiologist who carried out the procedure and to take a copy to your outpatient appointment with your doctor.

Pain relief may occur in the following ways:

  • Immediate relief.
  • Pain relief starting within 12 to 24 hours.
  • No change for several days and then a slow improvement over for several weeks.

How do I get my results?

Your doctor will arrange for you to have an outpatient appointment to review the results.

Side effects, risks and complicationsShow [+]Hide [-]

What are the side effects of the treatment?

There may be a temporary numbness in the arm or leg. This usually wears off in a few hours.

What are the risks and complications of the treatment?

  • Soreness or bruising where the injection was given. This usually settles in a few days.
  • Infection - Infection risks are minimised by performing the procedure under sterile conditions.
  • No pain relief - the commonest complication would be that the treatment did not help the nerve root pain in the arm or leg.
  • Like all x-ray machines the one used during the nerve root injection produces x-rays. Modern equipment is designed to keep the dose to patients as low as possible. Your referring consultant will have decided that the benefit of having the facet joint injection is greater than the risk of the small dose of radiation. However, if you think you may be pregnant it is very important that you tell the radiographer before the procedure.

Who do I contact if I have any problems?

Between the hours of 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, please contact a Neuroradiology nurse on (0191) 256 3347

Outside of these times, please contact your GP or the Senior Nurse in Charge for Neurosciences via the Switchboard on Telephone: (0191) 233 6161

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