FAQ’s on Lumbar Discogram in Las Vegas and Henderson NV

The lumbar discogram procedure is used to show intervertebral disc damage. This procedure involves injection of a contrast material into the disc to look for tears, fissures, and other damage. The pain management specialist uses the lumbar discogram to develop an effective treatment plan.

Why is the lumbar discogram ordered?

With age, damage, and injury, the wall of the lumbar disc develops cracks and tears, usually related to degenerative disc disease. If the disc wall develops an opening, the inner gel-like material may leak or ooze out. The lumbar discogram is used to determine damage of the disc, and to allow the doctor to pinpoint the exact disc causing the pain.

Is degenerative disc disease painful?

According to clinical studies performed over the last two decades, more than 40% of all people over age 40 have some form of disc degeneration. Degenerative disc disease can cause serious lower back pain, and is found in around 30% of patients who have chronic back problems. The lumbar discogram is used to determine which disc or discs have degenerated.

How do I prepare for the lumbar discogram procedure?

Because a mild sedative is usually given during the discogram procedure, be sure to have someone with you to drive you home. Before the procedure, a nurse will discuss the risks and benefits of the discogram, and ask you to sign an informed consent paper. After you change into a gown, an IV catheter line is placed in your arm to administer fluids and antibiotics.

What happens during the lumbar discogram procedure?

A nurse will have you lie face-down, and place pillows beneath the lower abdomen for support. Once the skin of the lower back is cleaned with an antiseptic solution, the skin can be numbed with a local anesthetic. Using x-ray guidance, the needle is guided into the disc, and contrast material is injected. Mild-moderate pressure is used while the doctor asks you questions about how this feels. Once the needle is removed, a dry bandage is placed over the injection site.

Will the lumbar discogram hurt?

The skin on the lower back is numbed with a small needle, which will feel like a slight burning sensation. Expect to experience some pressure as the needle is guided into the affected disc. When the contrast material is injected, there will be some mild discomfort. This is a diagnostic procedure, so it does not offer any pain relief benefits.

What can I expect following the procedure?

After the lumbar discogram, the patient has to rest for 24-48 hours. We recommend that you wait this amount of time, and then gradually return to usual activities. Ice can be used for the lower back pain, which must be applied for around 20 minutes several times each day. Avoid soaking in a tub or swimming for a few days, and remove the bandage as directed by the nurse.

What risks and side effects are associated with the lumbar discogram?

The lumbar discogram is a safe, effective procedure, but there are some complications to consider. These include worsening back pain, infection, blood vessel damage, nerve injury, and bleeding. An allergic reaction to medications used during the procedure could also occur.

Is the lumbar discogram effective for diagnosing disc problems?

Based on current research studies, the lumbar discogram has a 90% efficacy rate for diagnosing degenerative discs and disc damage.

Resources

Manchikanti L, Glaser SE, Wolfer L et al. (2009). Systematic review of lumbar discography as a diagnostic test for chronic low back pain. Pain Physician, 12(3): 541-559.