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Superior Recess Access of the Lumbar Facet Joint

Demir-Deviren, Sibel MD; Singh, Sukhminder MD, MS; Hanelin, Joshua MD

doi: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000271

Study Design: Descriptive approach to accessing the lumbar facet joint by superior recess.

Objective: This study is aimed to describe an approach to accessing the lumbar facet joint through targeting the superior recess during lumbar facet joint injections.

Summary of Background Data: Lumbar facet joint injections are routinely performed for both the diagnosis and treatment of chronic low back pain. Previous studies either did not specify which part of the joint to target, or recommended targeting the inferior aspect of the joint to access the inferior recess. One study did mention the superior recess as an alternative to injecting the inferior recess, but none has focused on description of the technique. This is the first time this technique has been described.

Materials and Methods: The records and fluoroscopic images were reviewed for all patients over a period of 9 months (January–September 2012) using the proposed technique. This resulted in a total of 48 patients; 15 men, 29 women, and a total of 117 facet joint intra-articular injections. Among these 48 patients, injections were repeated in total of 4 cases. The average time of injections among 4 repeat cases was 121 days. The success of the procedure was confirmed with an arthrogram demonstrating contrast flowing from the superior recess inferiorly through the joint space.

Results: Successful access of the lumbar facet joint through puncture of the superior recess was seen in 114 cases, with 3 unsuccessful attempts to enter facet joints due to osteophytes at involved levels. There were no complications observed during the procedure.

Conclusions: We find this approach to be highly successful, safe, and well tolerated by the patient and recommend it as a technique for access of the lumbar facet joint in those patients in whom direct puncture of the inferior recess is difficult.

*Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Spine Center, University of California, San Francisco

Tower Imaging Medical Group, Los Angeles, CA

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Sibel Demir-Deviren, MD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Spine Center, University of California, 500 Parnassus Avenue, MU 320-W, San Francisco, CA 94143-0728 (e-mail:

Received March 11, 2013

Accepted March 7, 2015

© 2017 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.