Lumbar discography is an injection technique used to evaluate patients with back pain who have not responded to extensive conservative (nonsurgical) care regimens. The most common use of discography is for surgical planning prior to a lumbar fusion.
How is Discography performed?
The procedure is done in the Operating Room with fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance. For lumbar discography (discs in the low back), it is done with you lying on your stomach.
There will be a nurse present during the procedure to monitor you and administer intravenous sedation to help you be comfortable and relaxed. You are watched closely with an EKG monitor, blood pressure cuff and blood oxygen-monitoring device. The skin over the injection site(s) is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then the injections are carried out. After the injection, you are placed on your back or on your side.
What will I feel during the injection?
When a normal disc is injected, you will feel a sense of pressure, but not pain. When an abnormal disc is injected, you will feel pain. It is important to try to tell if the pain you are feeling is your usual pain or different. With each disc injected, you will be asked if it is painful, where you feel the pain and whether it is in the same area as your usual pain.
How many discs will be injected?
Based on your symptoms and your MRI, we will identify which discs we suspect are causing your pain. These discs will be injected. In addition, we inject a normal disc to serve as a reference point.
How long does Discography take?
Discography takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many levels are injected.
What is actually injected?
The injection consists of x-ray dye (x-ray contrast). It is usually mixed with some antibiotics to prevent infection.