Lumbar Discography: What Is It?

Lumbar discography is not a familiar term to many people. Did you know that low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Unfortunately, this condition is challenging to diagnose as different illnesses can cause back pain. Another primary reason for this is the fact that many diagnostic tests provide inaccurate results. Fortunately, having a lumbar discography in Greenville, SC, can increase your chances of accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Discography (discogram) dates back to the 1940s, when medical professionals first used it to locate back pain-causing spinal lesions. Spine-health experts offer this treatment option on an outpatient basis, typically lasting less than an hour. After the test, your doctor should be able to determine the source of your pain. This will enable them to draw a treatment plan specifically targeting the problem.

Are you or anyone you know suffering from persistent back pain? A lumbar discography in Greenville, SC, may be what you need to understand the nature of your condition. If you want more details about this diagnostic procedure, you’ll discover all you need to know as you read this article.

What Does Discography Mean?

Damaged or fissured spinal discs lead to degenerative disc disease or internal disc disruption. This condition is typically due to aging or injury and can cause discogenic back pain that may extend to the thighs and buttocks.

Interestingly, this pain is similar to the discomfort you’ll experience if you have sacroiliac joint dysfunction or facet syndrome. Unfortunately, this makes diagnosing and treating these conditions difficult, especially with MRI, medical history, and physical examination alone.

Discography is an imaging test for evaluating back pain to determine if its source is spinal disc damage. In other words, it’s a diagnostic tool for distinguishing back pain caused by damaged discs from those resulting from other conditions. Doctors typically use this test and other ones like CT scans and MRI to ensure a correct diagnosis.

As an invasive procedure, discography is typically not the first test doctors carry out to evaluate back pain. Instead, they’ll only suggest it as a last resort after physical therapy, medications, and other conservative treatments don’t provide relief. Doctors may also recommend discography before they carry out a spinal fusion surgery. This helps them to identify the disks that they must remove.

How To Prepare for a Lumbar Discography in Greenville, SC

When getting ready for a lumbar discography, your doctor may advise you to stay away from blood thinners for a while. They’ll also inform you about the medication you must take to prepare your body for the test. Generally, patients undergoing lumbar discography must not drink water or have breakfast before the procedure begins.

You also need to prepare yourself mentally before attempting this procedure. So, do well to research your areas of concern from reputable and qualified sources before agreeing to this procedure.

Also, inform your doctor of your worries during the initial interview. They’ll answer all your questions and give accurate information to help you make a well-informed decision.

What Are the Stages of a Lumbar Discography

Here’s what to expect when you decide to undergo discography:

  • History and Physical Assessment 

The first stage in a lumbar discography in Greenville, SC, is the history and physical exam phase. In this stage, a healthcare professional will interview you and review your medical history to access your state of health.

This stage ensures that they have the correct information to provide you with the best care during the process. The doctor will also give you essential details about your procedure in this initial phase.

  • Initial Preparation

If you agree to a lumbar discography, your discographer may administer a sedative to keep you relaxed during the procedure. However, this isn’t compulsory as some doctors will not give you sedatives to avoid interfering with any sensations you may feel. Your discographer may also give you antibiotics to reduce your risk of infections.

Before the procedure, the discographer may start an intravenous line if you need intra-procedural medications. Next, you’ll need to lie on your side or abdomen on a specialized table. Finally, the doctor will position a fluoroscopic (X-ray) unit and mark your back with an ink pen. The markings will indicate the disc spaces to be examined.

The preparation also involves your discographer applying sterile drapes after thoroughly cleansing your back. They will also sterilely drape the fluoroscope, and your discographer will wear a clean surgical gown.

  • The Procedure

To begin the procedure, the doctor will administer a numbing injection to reduce your pain from the inserted discogram needle. Next, they’ll watch the discogram needle as it enters your body through the fluoroscope.  This ensures that they place the needle safely and precisely into the center of the examined disc.

After this, your doctor will inject a contrast dye into the disk and check if it spreads using a CT scan or X-ray. The dye will stay in the center of a normal disk and spread outside the center of a worn-out disk. This may be the reason for your back pain.

You may feel pressure, familiar pain, unfamiliar pain, or nothing during this procedure. An unfamiliar pain connotes a “new” kind of pain you’ve never felt before. Meanwhile, a familiar pain is similar to the backache you already have. It indicates that the examined disk is the source of your lower back pain. A normal disk will produce little or no pain upon examination.

  • Post-Procedure 

After the procedure, you’ll remain under observation for about an hour in the procedure room. Then, you’ll be free to leave if there are no complications. However, driving yourself is unwise, and you’ll need someone to take you home.

Some patients complain about pain at the injection site hours after the procedure. This is normal. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen soon after the lumbar discography.

You may also apply ice packs to the pain site every 20 minutes to relieve the pain. However, you must call your doctor if you come down with a fever or experience severe back pain.

After the procedure, your doctor will formally assess your medical history and images. This will give them an idea of the appropriate treatment plan for your condition.

Are There Risks Associated With a Discogram?

The possible risks and complications from a discogram include:

  • Disc space infection (this is a rare complication)
  • More severe chronic back pain
  • Spinal nerve or blood vessel injury
  • Allergic dye reaction

A qualified discographer will manage your condition cautiously to minimize your risk of complications.

Need a Lumbar Discography in Greenville, SC? Contact Carolina Spine & Pain Center Now!

Have you been experiencing chronic lower back for a while? A proper diagnosis will put you on the path to recovery. At Carolina Spine & Pain Center, our experienced discographers will work efficiently to relieve your pain and restore function to your body. Visit us today for more information on how we can help.