Spinal Disc Injections

Diagnostic procedure to determine whether the interverbal discs are contributing to pain, by injecting into a single or multiple discs. If significant pain reduction is experienced, diagnosis of facet joint pain can be confirmed.

The basics

A disc injection is a diagnostic procedure used to determine whether the intervertebral discs are contributing to your pain. The procedure involves the injection of a mixture of local anaesthetic and long-acting steroids into one or multiple discs, depending on your requirements. The local anaesthetic numbs the discs for a few hours, while the steroids gradually decrease inflammation over four to six weeks. If your pain reduces by 50% or more, it indicates that this percentage of your pain is originating from the disc(s).

Who's it for?

Disc injections are for people who are experiencing pain that may be caused by the intervertebral discs. The procedure is performed to diagnose whether the discs are contributing to the pain. If the procedure is successful in reducing the pain by 50% or more, it indicates that the pain is originating from the disc(s).

How it works?

  1. Light anaesthetic sedation is administered.
  2. Imaging is used to place the needle into the disc.
  3. The anaesthetist reduces your sedation so you can answer questions while local anaesthetic is injected into the disc.
  4. If you experience your usual pain when the disc is injected, a portion of your pain is determined to be arising from that disc.
  5. Steroid is injected into the disc while you are under sedation.
  6. The procedure is completed, and you are moved to the recovery room.

Therapies & treatments

The local anaesthetic will numb the disc for a few hours, and the steroids will take effect after 24 hours. Their impact will gradually decrease inflammation over the following four weeks. Some people get medium to long term relief, but this is considered a fortuitous outcome.

Risks & considerations

Common side effects include local tenderness, bruising, or swelling over the needle site, low blood pressure, facial flushing, heavy legs, or trouble passing urine for several hours, and increased pain for several days (occasionally weeks). Possible increased sensitivity to pain that may last for one to four weeks.

The risk of infection following disc injection is much higher than with other spinal pain procedures. For this reason, prophylactic antibiotics are administered at the time of the procedure. Infection of the disc, called discitis, is a rare but serious complication that can cause significant worsening of your pain, fever, chills, or shakes. Immediate treatment with intravenous antibiotics is essential. Left untreated, discitis can cause paraplegia or death.

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