Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Discography Information

What are the discs?

The discs are soft, cushion-like pads which separate the hard vertebral bones of your spine. A disc may be painful when it bulges, herniates, tears or degenerates and may cause pain in your neck, mid-back, low back and/or arms, chest wall, abdomen, and legs. Other structures in your spine may also cause similar pain such as the muscles, joins and nerves. Usually, we have first determined that these other structures are not your sole pain source (through history and physical examination, review of x-rays, CT/MRIand/or other diagnostic injection procedures such as facet and sacroiliac joint injections and nerve root blocks) before performing discography.

What is discography and why is it helpful?

Discography confirms or denies the disc(s) as a source of your pain. This procedure utilizes the placement of a needle into the discs themselves and injected contrast (dye). CTand MRI scans only demonstrate anatomy and cannot absolutely prove your pain source. In many instances, the discs may be abnormal on MRI and CT scans but not be a source of pain. Only, discography, which is a diagnostic/functional test, can tell if the disc itself is a source of your 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 if you think your pain is significant enough for you to consider surgery.

What will happen to me during the procedure?

An IV will be started so that antibiotics (to prevent infection) and relaxation medication can be given. You will lie on your back for cervical discography and on your side for bother thoracic and lumbar discography. The skin will be scrubbed using (2) two types of sterile (soap) scrub. Next, the physician will numb 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, your doctor will direct a small needle using x-ray guidance into the disc(s) space.

You may feel temporary discomfort as the needle passes through the muscle or near a nerve root. Your doctor may perform this at more than one disc level. After the needles are in their proper locations, a small amount of contrast (dye) is injected into each disc. If a disc is the source of your usual pain the injection may cause temporary discomfort.

What will happen after the procedure?

You will be held in the recovery area to be monitored for 30-60 minutes. You will be given if desired, a prescription for pain medicine for the next 2-3 days, for muscle discomfort that may exist after the procedure. You will not be able to drive the day of the procedure. Immediately afterwards you will be scheduled for a CT scan where additional pictures will be taken.

General Pre/Post Instructions

You should eat a light, but not a full meal within a few hours before your procedure. If you are an insulin dependent diabetic, do not change your normal eating pattern prior to the procedure. Please take your routine medications. (i.e. high blood pressure and diabetic medications). If you are on Coumadin or Heparin (blood thinners) or Glucophage (a diabetic medication) you must notify this office so the timing of stopping these medications can be explained. Please plan for at least 4 hours for the procedure and CT scan to be done. You will need to bring a driver with you. You may return to your normal activities 1-2 days after the procedure, including returning to work.

If you are unable to keep this appointment, please give notice as soon as possible and at least 24 hours in advance. Thank you.