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What is lumbar discography?

Lumbar provocative discography or lumbar discography or lumbar discogram is a preoperative study that uses the injection technique to evaluate patients with severe low back pain (LBP), groin pain, hip pain, and/or leg pain, especially those who are considering surgical intervention like a lumbar fusion. The study is designed to determine if a suspected intervertebral disc is the source of back pain in the patient. Discography is performed only if the patient has failed adequate attempts of conservative therapy and non-invasive diagnostic tests, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).


Lumbar Discography Indications

Some of the indications for carrying out a discography are:

  • To help assign the details of an operation.
  • To help decide whether or not to perform the surgery.
  • To determine if the patient is a candidate for IDET (Intradiscal Radiofrequency Annuloplasty / Nucleoplasty).


Lumbar Discography Procedure Details

The discography examination is performed under local anesthesia. A guide needle is directed towards the disc which just touches the outer surface of the annulus (the outer margin of the disc). Through this guide needle a much smaller disc needle is advanced towards and eventually into the center of the disc.

After all of the needles are placed, the discs are 'pressurized' one at a time. Pressurization consists of injecting small amounts of a sterile liquid (usually contrast material (x-ray dye)) into the center of the disc. The patient is asked to concentrate on what they are feeling, which is essentially a choice among:

  • Feeling nothing
  • Feeling pressure
  • Feeling pain

The feeling of pain is either a familiar pain (the kind of back pain that you have been experiencing and wish to treat) or an unfamiliar pain (some other pain than the usual back pain that you have experienced). If pressurization of a disc causes a familiar pain, then fusion of the pain generator discs may afford significant back pain relief.

After each level is pressurized, pictures are taken with the fluoroscopic unit and the needles are removed. Usually, a post-discogram CT is obtained to document the internal architecture of the disc.

The discogram procedure usually takes less than an hour to perform.


Lumbar discography in India, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, South Korea

In the United States, lumbar discography costs tens of thousands of dollars. If you are uninsured or have limited insurance, it may be difficult to bear the cost of this spinal examination. However, in India, Spain, South Korea and several other countries, the cost of this procedure is considerably lower (50% to 70% less) compared to the US and is available with virtually zero waiting time unlike in Canada and the UK. This is possible because of lower costs of labor in those countries.

Healthbase has partnered with internationally accredited top-notch spine hospitals worldwide for low cost high quality spine procedures such as lumbar discography. To find more about lumbar discography abroad, contact Healthbase.


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