Comparison of Intra-articular Thoracic Facet Joint Steroid Injection and Thoracic Medial Branch Block for the Management of Thoracic Facet Joint Pain

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Abstract

Study Design.

A prospective observational study.

Objective.

The aim of this study was to show the effect of intra-articular (IA) thoracic facet joint (TFJ) steroid injection for the management of TFJ pain, and to compare it with the effect of therapeutic thoracic medial branch block (MBB) with a local anesthetic and steroid.

Summary of Background Data.

Several studies have shown the effects of thoracic MBB with local anesthetics with or without steroids and radiofrequency neurotomy in managing TFJ pain, but thus far, the effectiveness of IA TFJ steroid injection has not been studied.

Methods.

Forty patients with TFJ pain were recruited and randomly assigned to one of two groups, the IA steroid injection and the MBB group, each with 20 patients. For IA TFJ steroid injection and therapeutic MBB, we injected 0.5 mL of 0.5% bupivacaine, mixed with 10 mg (0.25 mL) of dexamethasone. We assessed the severity of TFJ pain using a numeric rating scale (NRS) before treatment and at 1, 3, and 6 months after treatment.

Results.

Compared to the pretreatment NRS scores, the NRS scores at 1, 3, and 6 months after each treatment showed a significant decrease in patients in both the groups. Intergroup changes in the NRS scores were not significantly different over time. Six months after the treatment, 65% of the patients in the IA steroid injection group reported successful pain relief (pain relief ≥50%), and 40% of the patients in the MBB group showed successful pain relief.

Conclusion.

In the present study, both IA TFJ steroid injection and therapeutic MBB significantly relieved TFJ pain. Their effects persisted for at least 6 months after the procedure. Thus, we think that both IA TFJ steroid injection and therapeutic thoracic MBB are useful treatment options for managing TFJ pain.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 2

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