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The Basics of Disc Procedures

The Discs in your spine are shock absorbers between the spinal bones

When the discs are damaged due to trauma or wear and tear, they can become painful. They can also leak, bulge, or herniate, which can lead to irritated or pinched spinal nerve roots. This can cause nerve pain in other areas. There are four types of disc procedures:

  • Discogram – A diagnostic test where dye is injected inside the disc to see if it’s leaking or painful.
  • Intradiscal Injections – To treat a leaky disc, medicine is injected inside the disc.
All disc procedures start with imaging

To help diagnose what’s wrong, the specialist will start with a MRI. This test helps to see if the disc is bulging, herniated, or has a tear. Oftentimes, a discogram will also be performed. During this procedure, dye is injected inside the disc under x-ray guidance. You will be asked if the injection provokes your usual pain. It is very important that you tell the doctor: • If the disc is uncomfortable but not your everyday pain, or… • Reproduces your exact everyday pain. Sometimes a CAT scan is performed after the procedure to determine if the disc is torn.

Will I be awake during the procedure?

A mild sedative may be used to make you more comfortable. However, for a discogram, it’s important that you can tell the doctor about your pain during the procedure. The most important part of a discogram is telling the doctor if your usual pain is reproduced by the procedure…

Will I have to do anything special after the procedure?

You may be sore from a discogram. This can last several days. IDETC and percutaneous nucleoplasty usually require you to wear a brace for a few weeks. Ask your doctor for more details.

Does insurance cover this procedure?

Yes, most insurance plans have coverage for disc procedures. If you have an HMO plan, you may need to get additional authorization from your family doctor.

How should I prepare?
  • Do not eat or drink (other than sips for pills) for 6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • Make sure you have a driver.
  • If possible, do not take your pain medications on the morning of the procedure.
  • If you are on anti-inflammatory medication, it should be stopped 72 hours before the procedure.
  • If you take blood thinners or are diabetic, tell the specialist. You will need to get special instructions.
  • If you are pregnant, you shouldn’t have this procedure.
  • For more information, see and click on “For Patients”.
What should I expect after the procedure?
  • Begin taking all prescribed medications again. This includes any that you stopped because of the procedure.
  • You should take it easy for the rest of the day, but you can resume your usual activities the next day.
  • Carefully monitor your pain or symptoms and tell your doctor when you follow-up in the office.
  • If you’re a diabetic, monitor your sugars more closely.