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Diagnostic Discography

A diagnostic discography is used to pinpoint the source of your back pain if other conservative diagnostic methods have not been successful. Discography is usually used in patients to help determine a new treatment plan. If a variety of spinal diagnostic procedures have failed to identify the primary pain generator, a lumbar discography may be ordered, especially if spine surgery is contemplated. Caliber Pain™ utilizes diagnostic discography as one of our modalities for effective diagnosis and treatment at our facility in New York City.

Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a very good tool for showing disc abnormalities, it does not directly determine if the abnormalities are causing your pain. Diagnostic discography uses guided, real-time x-ray imaging to direct an injection of contrast dye into the center of one or more spinal discs. This pressurizes the discs, which helps identify the damaged discs that are leaking and causing back pain.

The disc nucleus contains chemicals that are very irritating to nerve tissue. A damaged disc will leak irritating fluid onto the nerve roots, producing pain. Leaking fluid may also trigger disc degeneration. Diagnostic discography can identify and isolate the discs that are damaged.

What to Expect

Caliber Pain™ performs this procedure on an outpatient basis in a treatment room equipped with fluoroscopic x-ray technology.

  • In the pre-procedure area, the nurse or doctor will place an IV line. This is used for fluids and sedation if needed.
  • When you get to the procedure room, you will be connected to monitoring equipment (EKG monitor, blood pressure cuff and blood oxygen monitoring device).
  • You will be positioned comfortably on your abdomen.
  • The injection site is cleansed with an antiseptic soap, after which our doctor will inject numbing medicine that causes a slight burning sensation for a few seconds.
  • Contrast dye is injected to identify the damaged discs.
  • You will be monitored for 20-30 minutes in the recovery room.
  • You will be given verbal and written discharge instructions.
  • If you have had sedation, you must be accompanied by a responsible adult, 18 or over, to drive you home or ride with you in a taxi

During the procedure, you will be asked to describe your pain in terms of location and severity. For the test to be objective, the doctor will not disclose what level is being injected and when the injection is taking place. If the injected disc is the source of your back pain, you may experience pain levels that you experience on a day-to-day basis. The process may be repeated for additional discs.

Discography is a minimally invasive procedure that is generally reserved for later stage diagnostics and treatment. Patients who undergo discography usually have not gotten satisfactory results from medication, physical therapy and modified activities. To learn more, contact us at Caliber Pain™ in Midtown Manhattan.

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Caliber Pain™

460 Park Ave, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022


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