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What is a Discography?

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A discography is a diagnostic procedure used on patients with back pain, typically for the purpose of planning surgery to the lower back. It involves the surgeon inserting a needle and obtaining the patient's response to determine the most effective approach to the surgery. Doctors most often use discography to plan a lumbar fusion.

Who should get a discography?

The best candidates for a discography have disabling low back pain that resists many forms of conservative treatment. Patients with pain in their groin, hips or legs may also be good candidates for this procedure. These patients typically require surgery to treat their pain.

What will the surgeon do?

The surgeon will start an intravenous line in case you require pain medication during the discography, although you need to be fully alert for the procedure to be completely effective. You'll also receive a local anesthetic to numb your tissue from your skin to the surface of the target spinal disc. The surgeon will insert a guide needle towards the disc until it reaches the disc's surface. The next step is to insert a disc needle through the guide needle and into the disc. The final step of this procedure is to pressurize the disc by injecting a sterile fluid into the disc.

What will I do?

You will provide the doctor with information during the procedure, primarily to report when you feel pain, pressure and nothing at all. You may also need to further classify the pain into familiar pain and unfamiliar pain.

What are the Risks?

The risks of a discography are very rare when an experienced surgeon performs this procedure. The most significant complication is an infection in the disc space, due to the difficulty of treating this type of infection. A discography also carries a remote risk of a spinal headache and an extremely unlikely chance of a nerve root injury.

To learn more about Discography and other pain management options, please contact us at any of our Orange County Pain Management locations.