Medial Branch Neurotomy: Your Experience

Back or neck pain may be due to problems with certain nerves near your spine. A medial branch neurotomy may help relieve your pain. Neurotomy is a procedure to destroy a nerve. This is done to relieve pain or stop movements you can't control. The treatment uses heat, cold, radiofrequency, or chemicals. This destroys the nerves near a problem joint. This keeps some pain messages from traveling to your brain. It can help relieve your symptoms.

Before you agree to this procedure, make sure to ask the healthcare provider:

  • Why do I need this procedure?

  • Are there any alternatives?

  • How many times have you done this procedure?

  • What are the risks?

  • When will I see the results?

  • Will the medicines in the injection interact with other medicines I'm taking?

If you don't feel OK asking these questions, ask a family member or friend to ask them. The answers are vital to your health and safety.

The treatment is done in a hospital or outpatient clinic. Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form. He or she will examine you and may give you an IV (intravenous) line for fluids and medicines.

Woman sitting in chair, reading.

Getting ready for your treatment

Ask your healthcare provider if you should stop taking any medicines before treatment. Follow directions for not eating or drinking before treatment.

Tell your healthcare provider:

  • If you are pregnant or could be

  • If you are allergic to any medicines

  • If you have had any recent illness

  • If you have other recent changes in your health

During the procedure

You will lie on an exam table. You will most likely on your stomach. This depends on where the nerve is that needs to be treated.

  • Your healthcare provider will clean the skin over the treatment site. He or she will then numb it with medicine.

  • Your provider uses X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy) to help see your spine. The X-rays help guide the treatment. Your provider may inject a contrast dye into the affected area. This is to help get a better image. If you are allergic to iodine or had a reaction to a dye, tell your healthcare provider.

  • Your healthcare provider uses heat, cold, or chemicals to destroy part of the nerve near the inflamed facet joint. Nearby nerves may also be treated.

After the procedure

You can likely go home about 1 hour after the procedure. Have a family member or friend drive you. The treated spot may be swollen and may feel more sore than usual. This is normal. This may last for a day or so. It will be a few days before you feel relief from your symptoms. Your provider may prescribe pain medicines for you. Ask him or her when it’s OK for you to go back to work.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Fever of 100.4°F ( 38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Redness or fluid leaking from the treatment area