Discogram Injections.

This fact sheet relates to the procedure known as a discogram, a type of diagnostic injection which is performed for the assessment of spinal pain that is potentially due to abnormalities of the intervertebral disc. Discograms are performed at Melbourne Radiology Clinic using a CT scan to guide the procedure.

Fact Sheets | Interventional Radiology | Back & Spinal Pain Injections

Discogram Injections

Introduction

A discogram is a type of diagnostic injection which is performed for the assessment of spinal pain that is potentially due to abnormalities of the intervertebral disc. This is performed at Melbourne Radiology Clinic to help identify whether a patient’s back pain is due to disc disruption (discogenic back pain) and if so which disc level(s) are involved. A CT scan will be used to guide the procedure.

A discogram involves injecting x-ray dye (contrast) into the centre of a disc. The dye injected stretches the disc and the test is positive if the procedure reproduces the patient’s pain. In this way, a discogram can determine whether back pain is due to disc disruption (discogenic back pain) and also assists in identifying the correct level prior to any contemplated surgery or other procedure. Further to this, a discogram can be used to assess the type of disc disruption and whether it causes pressure on adjacent structures, especially nerves.

Following discography, a CT is performed to also provide a 3-Dimensional view of the discs filled with dye. Usually multiple discs are injected in one session.

Preparation

01There is no specific preparation required.
02Do you take any blood thinning (or anticoagulant) medications?

It is essential that Melbourne Radiology Clinic knows in advance of any blood thinning (or anticoagulant) medication.

These must be stopped prior to the procedure (Aspirin and Warfarin for 5 days, Plavix for 7 days & Iscover for 8 days).

03Bring along a support person / driver

We also strongly recommend that you bring a responsible person to drive you home afterwards.

NOTE:

Please discuss any medical illnesses with your doctor before booking the recommended procedure.

RISKS

Risks of spinal procedures are rare and include:
-Infection

most of these are minor (<1%), however can be serious (<0.1%) requiring hospital admission, intravenous antibiotics and surgery.

-Bleeding:

this is fortunately also rare and slightly common in patients with bleeding disorders and on “blood thinning” medication. Blood thinning medications that you are currently taking should be ceased (Aspirin and Warfarin for 5 days, Plavix for 7 days and Iscover for 8 days).

As these medications constantly evolve with advances in medicine, the times to cease these medications may vary with newer medications. Should you be on different medications, please contact us or the doctor who prescribed the medication for further advice.

-Nerve damage:

from direct needle trauma, or as a consequence of the above mentioned complications.

-Dural puncture:

this is when the needle penetrates into the sac encasing the nerves within the spinal canal, causing leakage of fluid contained within the sac, known as CSF (cerebrospinal fluid), that may result persistent headaches. The risk of this procedure is approximately less than 1% and is treated with flat bed rest for two hours..

Procedure

CT Guided
Discogram Injections

You will be asked to wear a gown with the selected area of the spine exposed. Discograms are completed with you lying face down in a CT scanner. We will ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. A series of planning images are performed, with the area of needle entry planned on the computer terminal and then marked on your skin.

The radiologist will then clean your skin with an antiseptic wash and inject local anaesthetic into the injection site. This results in a stinging sensation which is temporary until the skin becomes numb, usually taking 10-30 seconds.

A fine needle is then passed through the skin and tissues, constantly manipulated under CT guidance until it enters the intended disc. When gentle needle contact is made with the disc, this may result in back or leg pain, and typically occurs when the dye or is injected, as this increases the pressure within the disc.

Following your procedure & recovery

You may feel some moderate back pain, which is important information for both the radiologist and your referring doctor, as this may confirm the disc(s) as the cause of your pain. This settles after a few moments, however some mild discomfort may persist.

Most patients are observed in the clinic for at least 30 minutes and are discharged after this point only if walking safely and feeling well. You should not drive for the rest of the day. The following day you may return to work and gradually increase your activities.

Results &
Follow-Up

Your Images and Report

One of Melbourne Radiology Clinic’s specialist radiologists, a medical doctor specialising in the interpretation of medical images for the purposes of providing a diagnosis, will then review the images and provide a formal written report. If medically urgent, or you have an appointment immediately after the scan to be seen by your doctor or health care provider, Melbourne Radiology Clinic will have your results ready without delay. Otherwise, the report will be received by your doctor or health care provider within the next 24 hours.

Follow-up Appointment

Please ensure that you make a follow up appointment with your referring doctor or health care provider to discuss your results.

Your referring doctor or health care provider is the most appropriate person to explain to you the results of the scans and for this reason, we do not release the results directly to you.

Reminders

Previous Scans & Reports

Please bring to the clinic any prior scans (eg. X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI, CT) and reports as these will assist our radiologist in assessing your condition.

Any Referral Request Accepted

Please note that any referral for a scan is valid at Melbourne Radiology Clinic, even if it has been written or printed on a referral form or stationery supplied by another radiology provider.

If you have any further queries about your appointment please call Melbourne Radiology Clinic on (03) 9667 1667  – we are always only too happy to help.

Appointment Time

Whilst every effort is made to keep your appointment time, the special needs of complex cases, elderly and frail patients can cause unexpected delays. Your consideration and patience in these circumstances is appreciated.

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