Facet joint ablation

Facet joint ablation is a procedure designed to eliminate the nerves that carry pain signals directly to a facet joint. This procedure is beneficial for conditions like spinal osteoarthritis, which is the inflammation of the facet joints in the spine due to spinal arthritis.

Facet joints are crucial to the health of the spine. Connecting the vertebrae together, the facet joints act as a hinge, allowing vertebrae to pivot and slide against one another and enabling a wide range of movement in the neck and back. Facet joints are surrounded by small nerves called medial branch nerves. These nerves carry pain signals directly to the brain from the joints. If triggered, these nerves can cause severe pain that radiates from the spine into the extremities, sometimes even causing numbness or tingling.

Nerve compression due to facet joint disease

One condition that can trigger the medial branch nerves to signal pain is facet joint osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the wearing down of cartilage on joints, and when cartilage wears away, bones are left to rub directly on each other. Bone-on-bone rubbing of facet joints can inflame the medial branch nerves, resulting in intense facet joint pain.

Medial branch nerves can be surgically eliminated so that facet joint pain is reduced — yet the facet joints themselves will remain fully functional. Destroying a medial branch nerve is similar to how a dentist eliminates a nerve during a root canal. The tooth remains functional, but the pain-carrying nerve does not.

The deadening of a medial branch nerve is called facet joint ablation — a minimally invasive procedure at Laser Spine Institute used to treat spinal arthritis.

Facet thermal ablation at Laser Spine Institute begins with a small incision, through which the diseased facet joint is thoroughly cleaned. Next, a small laser is used to desensitize the medial branch nerves that travel near the affected joints. Because this is a minimally invasive procedure, there is no trauma to or tearing of the surrounding muscles. Facet joint ablation can be performed on an outpatient basis.

If you would like more information about facet joint ablation, or would like to speak to the medical team at Laser Spine Institute about any other painful degenerative condition that is affecting your neck or back, contact us today. Our minimally invasive procedures have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain. We’ll be happy to review your MRI or CT scan.