FAQ’s on Lumbar discogram
A lumbar discogram, also called lumbar discography, is an outpatient diagnostic procedure used to evaluate patients who have not responded to non-invasive back treatments in the treatment of chronic back pain caused by intervertebral discs.
What is a lumbar discogram?
The lumbar discogram procedure involves the placement of needles through the skin, until
they touch the spinal disc (two to four discs are usually studied at a time), and then pressurizing the disc by injecting fluid in to it. This is in order to determine if nothing is felt, if pressure is felt, or if pain is felt. It is recommended for patients with chronic severe low back pain, or with abnormal space between their vertebrae from an injury or congenital effect.
What is a lumbar discogram it for?
The test is designed to determine which intervertebral discs of the spine are producing pain. It is a diagnostic procedure that does not cure the pain, but helps the physician detect which disc is causing your back pain. It can assist in the eventual treatment of back pain, leg pain, groin pain, and hip pain. Following the procedure, the patient should not expect immediate pain relief. In fact, some increase in pain is typical.
How is a lumbar discogram performed?
For this surgical procedure, the patient is placed lying face down on their stomach. A local anesthetic is applied by the physician to the skin, around the area to be studied. A guide needle is placed against the outer rim of the disc (the annulus), and a smaller needle is put through this guide needle, right in to the core of the disc. A radio-opaque dye is injected in to the area, to allow the procedure to be guided by X-ray.
The physician then checks the X-ray to see if any of the dye has leaked out of the disc. The pressure in each disc is measured, and the patient’s response will determine if any of the pain symptoms are replicated by the procedure. Fluoroscopic images are then taken, and the needles are removed from the spine. Typically a CT scan will be performed after the procedure to examine the spread of the dye in greater detail, to determine the shape and structure of the spinal discs, and to check for any damage to the outer section of the discs.
How long does a lumbar discogram last?
The procedure usually lasts less than an hour, most typically between 30 and 45 minutes. Moderate increases in back pain are experienced by most patients; however this will abate within one or two days. Pain from the needles themselves may remain for upwards of seven days. Medication or an ice pack can be used to relieve this pain.
What are the risks with a lumbar discogram?
Because a lumbar discogram is an invasive technique, there is always a slight risk of infection. This is especially difficult to treat when it occurs in a spinal disc. As the equipment is sterilized for this procedure, the chance of this occurring is small. There is also a slim chance of nerve root damage and spinal headache. With modern discography techniques the risk is very small. As with any procedure involving anesthetics or X-ray dyes, the patient may have an allergic reaction.
Use of the lumbar discogram procedure is effective in assessing disc abnormalities, evaluating severe spinal-related pain, and assessment before spinal fusion or disc herniation surgeries. With an experienced and highly skilled medical professional who applies modern discography techniques, these risks and complications are very rare, studies show.