Accurately Diagnosing the Source of Back Pain
Back pain is a very common ailment caused by different types of conditions. These conditions often share similar symptoms. As a result, an accurate diagnosis becomes critical to determining the most effective treatment. Discography, also referred to as disc stimulation testing, is a diagnostic tool used specifically to distinguish the pain resulting from a damaged disc to the pain experienced with facet syndrome* or sacroiliac joint dysfunction*.
What is discography?
Discography is a testing method that enables physicians to view and assess the internal structure of a disc in order to determine the exact source of your back pain.
With age or injury, the walls of the spinal discs can become damaged or fissured. This condition is called Internal Disc Disruption or Degenerative Disc Disease and can result in discogenic back pain. When the disc causes pain, it is typically a deep ache that sometimes radiates into the buttocks or thigh. Pain from facet joints in the back and from the sacroiliac (SI) joints can be difficult to distinguish from disc pain based on medical history, physical exam, or MRI alone. Discography will help your doctor determine if your pain is from a damaged disc. In this diagnostic test, contrast dye is injected into the spinal disc(s) that are presumed to be the source of your back pain. First, the skin and deeper tissues are numbed with a local anesthetic. Then, using fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance, a needle is inserted into the disc. Contrast dye is injected, and careful monitoring of the flow pattern of the dye and your pain response is recorded.
How long does it take?
Discography is safely performed on an outpatient basis. Depending on the number of discs being tested, it generally takes 30 to 45 minutes, followed by a brief period of observed recovery time.
What are the expected results?
National Spine & Pain Centers perform discography in a controlled, sterile environment. Typically, we advise patients to take it easy the day of the procedure. As a rule, patients return to normal activity the following day. However, some individuals may experience discomfort for one to two days following discography. If you are having discomfort, your doctor will advise you on how best to address it. Usually, the discomfort is alleviated with ice and oral analgesics.
The results of discography can be crucial to determining the best course of treatment to effectively address your back pain.