Knee pain caused by osteoarthritis is a long-term condition that many times ends in total knee replacement surgery as a means of relieving pain and stiffness and increase quality of life. Surgeons perform over 600,000 total knee replacement surgeries annually in the United States.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, but are not ready for a surgical approach, your health care provider may suggest less invasive treatment options. One such option is a peripheral nerve block. This procedure blocks the nerve supply to affected areas. In the knee joint, the peripheral nerves are named the genicular nerves.
Doctors perform genicular nerve blocks to diagnose and treat chronic knee pain. Studies show that patients have a 42.6 percent reduction in their knee pain level after the treatment. A genicular nerve block is a therapeutic alternative for many candidates. If you feel it may work for you, it is important to know what the treatment involves and if your Medicare benefits cover the cost of the procedure.
What is a Genicular Nerve Block Procedure?
Doctors perform genicular nerve blocks to reduce chronic knee pain that may be the result of severe osteoarthritis, partial knee replacement, or for individuals who have chronic pain but cannot undergo surgery, or have degenerative joint disease.
In a genicular nerve block procedure, the nerve bundles that supply the knee are blocked. Your physician injects a local anesthetic through needles into the nerves with the live guidance of fluoroscopy or an ultrasound equipment, to make sure the needles are being placed correctly. The procedure usually takes between five and ten minutes.
Before the procedure, your health care provider will let you know what medications you should stop taking. The day of the procedure you should not have a fever or be taking antibiotics. The doctor may tell you not to eat after midnight the day of the procedure.
During the procedure, you will lie down comfortably, be attached to monitors, and have an IV needle inserted for delivery of medication, if you choose to be sedated. Using fluoroscopy or ultrasound, the physician finds the genicular nerves and injects a combination of a steroid and anesthetic into the nerves.
Your health care provider gives you instructions for your aftercare depending on your specific situation. If you have been sedated during the procedure, someone must drive you home. It is usually suggested that you do no strenuous activity for 24 hours afterwards, but other than that you can go back to your normal lifestyle.
Medicare Coverage for Genicular Nerve Block
Although the final cost for this type of procedure depends on where you live and who does the procedure, the estimated national average without insurance is over $2,000.00. Your Medicare benefits may cover the cost of a genicular nerve block procedure if you have not gotten successful knee pain relief from more conservative therapies in the past, and your health care provider uses it diagnostically to determine your condition.
For diagnostic, non-laboratory tests, Original Medicare Part B offers coverage in some situations. Medicare will likely pay 80 percent of the Medicare-approved final amount, and you are responsible for the remaining 20 percent of that amount. You are also responsible for a copayment if the exam is done in a hospital outpatient setting.
If you have coverage through a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, you will have the same Part A and Part B benefits as Original Medicare but many plans provide additional coverage.