Facet Joint Arthritis
Facet joints are small joints that occur in pairs along the length of your spine and provide stability and help guide motion. They can become painful as a result of arthritis, injury or mechanical stress.
Arthritis of the lumbar facet joints can be a source of significant low back pain. Aligned on the back of the spinal column, the facet joints link each vertebra together. Articular cartilage covers the surfaces where these joints meet. Like other joints in the body that are covered with articular cartilage, the lumbar facet joints can be affected by arthritis.
This guide will help you understand
how the problem develops
how doctors diagnose the condition
what treatment options are available
The diagnosis of facet joint arthritis is made by physical examination, X-ray, or MRI. A diagnostic block (injection) into the facet joint or nerves that supply the joints can often confirm the facet joints as the source of pain.
Painful facet joint arthritis can be treated through exercise or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories).
More lasting relief of the facet joint problem can be obtained by destroying some of the tiny nerve endings serving the joints. Facet Rhizotomy is a treatment method that reduces pain through blocking the nerves that cause the pain from facet joints. Radiofrequency ablation is one technique uses X-ray imaging to insert a needle tipped with an electrode facet joints. The electrode then heats up and deadens the surrounding nerves, which reduces or eliminates pain.
ExAblate provides an MR guided Focused Ultrasound non-invasive treatment for facet joint pain without any injections or needles or radiation. High intensity focused ultrasound waves combine with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to relieve back pain from facet joints without effect on surrounding tissues. Like a magnifying glass is used to focus the sun’s energy on a point to burn a leaf, focused ultrasound energy is targeted to relieve your pain.
How does ExAblate treat facet joint pain?
Focused ultrasound waves are focused onto a small area of your painful joint. This causes the facet area to heat up and destroy the pain-causing nerves. This process is repeated until all the nerves causing your facet joint pain are destroyed.
The entire treatment is conducted while you lie in an MRI scanner (a special system that provides very detailed images of your facet joints without using radiation). The MRI helps the physician “see” inside the body providing pinpoint accuracy, guidance, and continuous monitoring of the treatment.
You are awake throughout the treatment and are able to talk with your physician.
You will be given pain medication and light sedation to minimize any pain that may be caused by the procedure itself.
What are the benefits of ExAblate?
ExAblate treatment is designed to reduce the amount and severity of your lower back pain.
• It is non-invasive, so no needles or injections are required
• There is no exposure to radiation
• There is no need for general anesthesia
• It is an outpatient procedure with no hospitalization
• Several facet joints can be treated during one session
• Accurate targeting is monitored in closed loop throw-out the entire treatment
• Safe procedure with minimal side effects