Lumbar Facet Joint Blocks: Allergic Reactions and Infections Put In Context!

Lumbar Facet Joint Blocks: Allergic Reactions and Infections Put In Context!

As a procedure, having a lumbar facet joint block is extremely safe. It is a procedure that is minimally invasive in the sense that surgery is not performed and there is no need for a general anaesthetic.

However, in line with all aspects of life, there are some risks associated with a lumbar facet joint and although these are minimal, it is important to simply be aware of the procedure and to be aware of just how low the risks are, whilst acknowledging that they do indeed exist.

The Risks In Context

You may read that one of the possible risks associated with a lumbar facet joint is an allergic reaction to the insertion of the needle or the medication that is intravenously administered. It is indeed true that occasionally this can happen, but in fact the incidence of an allergic reaction is circa 1 in every 7,000 people have an allergic reaction. So for every 7,000 lumbar facet joints that are carried out, only one person will have an allergic reaction.

However, it is important to then look at the term ‘allergic reaction’.  Most people assume that this is a life threatening condition where the patient is critically ill.  Yet the reality is that the allergic reaction is usually nothing more severe than a rash, which may be a minor irritation, but is rarely anything more dramatic.  So highlighting an allergic reaction as a potential side effect is accurate, but assumptions should not be made as to how serious the rash will be.  In fact it is likely to be a rash.

Moreover, the allergic reaction is instantaneous, so it will be evident before you go home. This means that it will be treated before you go home, if indeed treatment is required; if the rash is very faint there may not be a need for any further treatment.  So immediate medical advice and treatment will be provided if you are one of the 7,000 people who develop a rash or allergic reaction.

Infection Risk

Because the needle inserted pierces the skin, there is a small risk that the area where the needle is inserted will become infected.  However, again it is important to view this within context.  Around 1 in 7,000 people may develop an infection.  This rate of risk is classified as very low and as with allergic reactions, the term ‘infection’ is a word that can be used to describe extremely serious conditions that can take a long time to clear up or can be used to describe a very small area that is red and swollen but responds quickly to treatment with antibiotics.

Most people who are unlucky enough to develop an infection will find that it is not life threatening but merely localised within the area of where the needle was inserted. People who experience more aggressive infections are likely to have some other underlying medical condition that may compromise their immune system etc.

So in summary a lumbar facet joint block can carry with it the risk of allergic reactions or an infection; but these have to be viewed in context, as opposed to making assumptions about what this actually means; this is an extremely afe procedure!



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