A lumbar discography is an outpatient procedure for diagnosing pain that originates from a tear in an intervertebral discs in the lower back.
Intervertebral disc are soft discs are found between the vertebrae of the spine. The disc has two parts; the inner part called nucleus and the outer part called the annulus that has nerve endings that are sensitive to pain.
The disc cushions the vertebra during movement. If a disc tears, chemicals inside may leak out. This can irritate the nerve in the outer part of the disc and cause pain. The nerve roots and the protective covering of the spinal cord (called the dura) are also sensitive to these chemicals.When these nerves are irritated, they can cause pain in the lower back and legs.
If you have pain in your lower back that has not improved with other treatments, you may have lumbar disc pain. If pain travels to your legs, you may have nerve root inflammation.
The common tests that are usually done include such as x-rays or MRIs which may show disc bulges and nerve root compression, but may not always show tears or leaks in discs. A lumbar discography is the best way to diagnose torn discs.
During the procedure
An intravenous (IV) line will be placed for sedation during the procedure.
The physician numbs your skin with local anesthetic. Under X-ray guidance, a thin needle is advance into the center of the disc. To ensure proper placement of the needle, the physician will inject contrast dye to identify whether or not the disc is painful.
This is often done to several discs to find the specific disc or discs that are causing your pain. During discography, a healthy disc will not cause your usual pain but a torn disc may. It is important to describe the pain you are feeling during the procedure.
After the procedure
You will be monitored for a half an hour after the Lumbar Discography. When you are ready to leave, the staff will give you discharge instructions.
You may feel increased pain in your back after discography. Your pain may be a little worse for a day or two. You can usually return to work a day or two after discography. You should take it easy for the rest of the day.
You will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results of the discography.