Cervical Discography

Cervical discography is one of many choices for the evaluation of neck pain following a whiplash injury, arthritis or other injury to the cervical area of the neck. These types of injuries are often chronic and debilitating. The prevalence is high and yet doctors don’t always know all the reasons behind the neck pain. The pain can be because of the cervical intervertebral disc, soft tissue or facet joints.

One test to show the origin of the pain is to do cervical intervertebral provocation discography. It stimulates the disks and evaluates the space, being able to tell the difference between a healthy disc and a damaged disc. The discography can show the damaged disc and will reveal it using x-ray.

One study did a literature review on the cervical discography. The idea was to discover if the discography was valuable and useful in identifying the source of the cervical pain.

Cervical discography plays a big role in deciding who is a good candidate for cervical disc surgery and who is not. The prevalence rate for those needing surgery is about 16-20 percent. Some who studied this procedure felt there were not enough procedures to evaluate the validity of the testing.

Overall, it was decided that cervical discograms done according to IASP guidelines have the most usefulness.  The cervical discography identifies whether or not the disc is a source of your neck pain. It involves the injection of contrast dye into the cervical disc. CT scans or MRI scans are tests that are not as useful because they don’t match the concept of pain and disc abnormality.

During the procedure, you will receive an IV and a relaxation medication. You lie on your back for a cervical discography and your skin will be cleansed with an antiseptic. There will be a small prick of anesthetic and a needle will be inserted into the disc. The test may be repeated several times to that the disc and contrast material can be looked at. If the disc is the source of the pain, your pain will be reproduced when the contrast material is used.

After the procedure, a CT scan will be done to show the anatomy of the suspected disc. Pain will occur for the next 2-3 days. Ice can be used to ease the pain during this time. A pain medicine may be supplied. After the recovery time, you can return to work and to your normal activities. Pain seems to relent after 3 days.