What is a Common Cause of Back Pain?
If a patient suffers from chronic lower back pain, it becomes important to determine the exact anatomic cause of that pain so that other treatment options could be considered. Medical research has demonstrated that the most common cause of chronic lower back pain is a painful disc, also known as discogenic pain.
Although an MRI can visualize the discs, an MRI is incapable of definitively determining if a disc is painful or not. There may be findings on the MRI suggesting a particular disc is the cause of one’s pain, but discography is necessary to reliably make a determination regarding a painful disc before more appropriate treatment options can be considered.
If your physician or surgeon determines that discography is the next appropriate step in your care, a pre-procedural evaluation is performed to rule out any contraindications to performing the discography.
What is Discography and a Diagnostic Disk Injection?
Discography is performed in a sterile environment using x-ray guidance or fluoroscopy. Antibiotics are given either intravenously or intradiscally at the time of injection. Sedation can be provided. However, the patient must be awake and conversant during the discography procedure in order to obtain reliable results.
The patient is placed face down onto a special fluoroscopy bed or table. After numbing up or anesthetizing the skin and other soft tissues of the back, needles are carefully inserted into the disc at the levels to be tested using fluoroscopy.
Once the needles are placed, the discs are injected with contrast dye that can be seen on x-ray. At the same time, the patient is questioned regarding reproduction of their back pain. Upon completion of the procedure, which takes generally less than 30 minutes, the needles are removed and pain medication given if necessary.
After a relatively short period of observation, the patient is accompanied to a CT scan where further imaging or pictures of the discs are taken.
Are There Risks Associated with Discography and Disc Injection For Back Pain?
After the procedure, patients tend to have a temporary increase in pain lasting no more than 3-5 days. Thereafter, the symptoms will return to their pre-procedural level.
With the information provided by the discogram, the patient can consult with their treating physician regarding available treatment options.
The risks associated with discography are minimal and include rare cases of infection.
The treatment of discogenic pain can be difficult, but there are new exciting and innovative options available. Only with the knowledge of the exact pain generator, can appropriate treatment options be provided.
If you live or you are visiting the Lehigh Valley region, including Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton areas and you are suffering from chronic low back pain or need to schedule discography, please consider making an appointment by calling (610) 954-9400 or schedule a doctor’s visit Online.