Genicular Nerve Block

Many of our patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis have achieved significan pain relief with our Genicular Nerve Block procedure.  Contact us to see if you are a good candidate.

What is a Genicular Nerve Block?

A genicular nerve block is a minimally invasive procedure used for diagnosing and treating knee pain, particularly in patients with osteoarthritis or those who have undergone knee surgery but still experience discomfort. It targets the genicular nerves, which are responsible for transmitting pain signals from the knee to the brain. The procedure involves the precise injection of a local anesthetic (and sometimes a steroid for longer-lasting relief) around the genicular nerves. This effectively interrupts the pain signals, providing temporary relief from knee pain.

The genicular nerve block serves both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Diagnostically, it helps to confirm that the pain originates from the knee joint. Therapeutically, it can offer significant pain relief. For patients who respond well to the genicular nerve block, a more permanent procedure called genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation (RFA) might be recommended for sustained pain relief. This procedure is particularly beneficial for patients seeking alternatives to knee replacement surgery or for those who are not candidates for such surgery.

What are the benefits and risks of a Genicular Nerve Block?

The following are a brief list of the benefits and risks of a medial branch block:

Benefits

  • Effective Pain Relief: Offers significant relief from knee pain, especially for conditions like osteoarthritis or post-surgical pain, allowing patients to improve their quality of life and increase mobility.
  • Diagnostic Tool: It serves as an important diagnostic tool by confirming whether the facet joints are the source of pain. If pain relief is experienced after the block, it indicates that the targeted facet joints are likely contributing to the patient's pain.
  • Minimally Invasive: The procedure is less invasive than knee surgery, involving only the injection of medication, which means a quicker recovery time and less risk of complications.
  • Diagnostic Tool: Helps in diagnosing the source of knee pain by determining if the pain is significantly reduced after the block, confirming that the genicular nerves are the pain source.
  • Low Risk of Side Effects: Compared to systemic pain medications, the genicular nerve block has a lower risk of systemic side effects since the medication is localized.
  • Alternative to Surgery: Provides an option for pain relief for those who are not candidates for knee surgery or prefer to avoid surgery.
  • Short Procedure Time: The block is usually quick to perform and can be done in an outpatient setting.

Risks

  • Infection: As with any procedure that involves needle insertion, there's a small risk of infection at the injection site.
  • Bleeding: There is a risk of bleeding, particularly for patients with bleeding disorders or those on blood thinners.
  • Allergic Reaction: Some patients may have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic or steroid used.
  • Nerve Damage: There's a slight risk of accidental damage to nearby nerves during the procedure.
  • Temporary Increase in Pain: Some patients may experience a temporary increase in pain or discomfort following the procedure before experiencing pain relief.
  • Limited Duration of Relief: The pain relief provided by a genicular nerve block is temporary, and the duration of effectiveness can vary among patients.
  • Injection Site Pain: Patients may experience pain or soreness at the injection site, which usually resolves within a few days.

We will discuss these potential benefits and risks with you during a pain management consultation to determine if a genicular nerve block is an appropriate treatment option for your knee pain.

Who is a good candidate for a Genicular Nerve Block?

Good candidates for a genicular nerve block typically include individuals experiencing chronic knee pain that has not responded adequately to conservative treatment methods. Key characteristics of suitable candidates are:

  • Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis who experience significant pain and limitation in their daily activities but wish to avoid or delay knee replacement surgery.
  • Post-Surgical Pain: Individuals who have undergone knee surgery, such as total knee arthroplasty, but continue to experience persistent pain despite the surgical intervention.
  • Non-Surgical Candidates: Patients who are not candidates for knee surgery due to medical comorbidities, age, or personal preference but require effective pain management solutions.
  • Chronic Knee Pain: Those with chronic knee pain resulting from other degenerative joint diseases or conditions, where the pain significantly impacts their quality of life.
  • Failed Conservative Treatments: Patients who have not found relief from conservative treatments, including physical therapy, oral medications, corticosteroid injections, or hyaluronic acid injections.
  • Seeking Diagnostic Clarity: Individuals for whom it is necessary to pinpoint the pain source in the knee, helping to determine whether the genicular nerves are contributing to their pain.

We perform a comprehensive evaluation including a detailed medical history, physical examination, and possibly imaging studies to assess your knee's condition and determine if a genicular nerve block or other treatment is right for you.

How is a Genicular Nerve Block performed?

We perform genicular nerve blocks in our pain clinics on an outpatient basis using fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance, to ensure accuracy and safety. The process generally follows these steps:

  • Preparation: The patient is positioned comfortably, usually lying on their back. The skin around the knee is cleaned and sterilized to minimize the risk of infection. The patient may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area and, in some cases, mild sedation to help with relaxation and comfort.
  • Imaging Guidance: Fluoroscopy (a type of real-time X-ray) or ultrasound is used to accurately identify the genicular nerves and guide the placement of the injection. This imaging ensures the medication is delivered precisely to the targeted nerves.
  • Injection: Once the genicular nerves are located, the physician carefully inserts a needle towards each targeted nerve. A local anesthetic, with or without a steroid, is injected around the nerves. The local anesthetic provides immediate pain relief, while the steroid can help reduce inflammation, offering longer-term relief.
  • Post-Procedure: After the injection, the patient is monitored for a short period for any adverse reactions. The procedure site is bandaged, and the patient is given post-procedure instructions, including monitoring for signs of infection and managing any soreness at the injection site.
  • Follow-Up: Patients are typically advised to rest for the remainder of the day and may experience immediate pain relief. The duration of pain relief can vary; some patients may experience prolonged relief, while others may need additional treatments. Follow-up appointments are crucial to assess the effectiveness of the block and discuss further treatment options, such as repeat blocks or considering genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation for longer-lasting pain relief.

The entire genicular nerve block procedure is relatively quick, often completed within 30 minutes to an hour, allowing patients to go home the same day.

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