Discography confirms or denies the disc(s) as a source of pain. This procedure utilized the placement of a needle into the discs themselves, utilizing x-ray guidance and injecting contrast (dye). CT's and MRI scans only demonstrate anatomy and cannot absolutely prove a patients pain source. In many instances, the discs may be abnormal on MRI or CT scans but not a source of pain. Only discography can tell if the disc(s) themselves are a source of pain. Therefore, discography is done to identify painful disc(s) and help the surgeon plan the correct surgery or avoid surgery that may not be beneficial. Discography is usually done only if a patients pain is significant enough for them to consider surgery.
What happens during the procedure?
An IV is started so that antibiotics (to prevent infection) relaxation medication can be given. The patients lie on their back for cervical discography and on their side for both thoracic and lumbar discography. The skin on the back is scrubbed using 2 types of sterile scrub (soap). Next, the physician numbs a small area of skin with numbing medicine. This medicine stings for several seconds. After the numbing medicine has been given time to be effective, the physician directs a small needle, using x-ray guidance into the disc(s) space. Patients generally feel temporary discomfort as the needle passes through the muscle or near a nerve root. The physician may perform this at more than one disc level. After the needles are in their proper locations, small amount of contrast (dye) is injected into each disc.
What happens after the procedure?
Immediately after the disc(s) are injected, the patient is taken to Cat Scan where additional pictures are taken. Following the Cat Scan, patients are returned to the recovery area where they are monitored for 30 - 60 minutes. Patients are usually given prescription for pain medication to take for a few days following the procedure. This helps with muscle discomfort that may exist after this procedure.
General Pre/Post Instructions
Patients can eat a light meal within a few hours before the procedure. If a patient is an insulin dependent diabetic, they must not change their normal eating pattern prior to the procedure. Patients may take their routine medications. (i.e. high blood pressure and diabetic medications). Patients should not take pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications the day of their procedure. Patients have to be hurting prior to this procedure. They may not take medications that may give pain relief or lessen their usual pain. These medicines can be restarted after the procedure if they are needed.