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ARRS: Procedure Pinpoints Injured Spinal Discs

Functional anesthetic discography may help identify patients who need disc surgery

FRIDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Functional anesthetic discography may help confirm that injured spinal discs are the source of lower back pain prior to surgery, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society in Orlando.

Jonathan Luchs, M.D., of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., and colleagues injected anesthetic directly into 29 discs in 19 patients. A 21-gauge functional anesthetic discography (FAD) catheter was used to deliver 1 mL-2 mL of 0.5 to 2 percent local anesthetic, and patients were blinded to level of disc injection and placement of FAD. Pain was assessed before and five, 10 and 15 minutes after the injection.

In 19 of the discs, or 65.5 percent, the procedure resulted in pain relief of three units or greater on the visual analog pain scale. Of those, 18 discs showed radial tears or other disc pathology on a multidetector computed tomography scan, as did eight of the 10 discs in patients with no pain relief.

"However, the surprising information was that not all patients had the same amount of pain relief with the anesthetic during functional motion," Luchs said in a statement. "This led us to believe that not all of our patients suffered from merely disc disease, but their pain may be from various spinal contributors. Therefore, although this is a new helpful exam that does in many cases add to the localization of back pain, it is not the final answer to diagnosing back pain."

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