Intradiscal Injection

An intradiscal injection is one of the new treatments for degenerative disc disease. It can be performed as either a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure. As a diagnostic procedure, it is an injection of local anesthetic that temporarily removes the degenerative spine disease pain from a patient. If the injection is administered and the patient still feels pain, then the doctor will try an adjacent level.

As a therapeutic treatment a longer lasting steroid is injected into the disc to reduce symptoms of degenerative disc disease such as inflammation or swelling that cause pain. It takes 2-3 days for the steroid in the injection to have effect, with the best effects being felt between a week or two after the injection. Some patients will benefit from months of pain relief, while others will only feel temporary effects of the steroid. There is no way to know how long your relief will be until you have undergone the procedure.

Preparing for Intradiscal Injection

Before the procedure, a patient should organize transfer from the hospital, as you can’t drive after this procedure. Also, before this lumbar degenerative disc disease treatment, you’ll need to consult a doctor and ask if you need to stop taking blood thinning medications, if you take any. Your medical team should also be informed about any allergies you have or about fever, if you experience it, before the procedure.

The procedure is performed while the patient is in the prone position with a cushion or pillow under their abdomen. Using X-ray guidance, the surgeon determines what the best and safest pathway to the damaged spinal disc will be. A local anesthetic is given, and a thin needle is inserted under x-ray guidance into the center portion of the disc receiving the injection. There is a small amount of contrast solution that is injected into the disc to make sure that the needle is on target, and then the injection of the solution is administered.

Side effects of the steroid

Minimal side effects characterize this procedure. But still, some flushing can be present, as well as elevated blood pressure. A patient can also experience headaches, insomnia, and even fever. In women the procedure can affect menstrual cycle, and for those diagnosed with diabetes, sugar levels can be higher for some time after the intradiscal injections.

After the intradiscal injection

Recovery from the procedure takes about 30-45 minutes while the patient is cared for in the recovery area.

A patient should rest the day after the procedure and follow the instructions given by the medical team. As the injection site can have unpleasant sensations, you can use ice packs to ease some pain. Remember that prolonged soaking of the injection site is not recommended, so try to opt for showers instead of baths.

Some side effects like aching of the injection site or temporary discomfort are normal and will go away in a couple of days.

However, you should inform your medical team if you have redness or warmth at the injection site, as well as swelling. If you have a fever after the procedure, immediately call your doctor.

Intradiscal injection risks

The potential risks of the procedure include excess bleeding, pain or discomfort at the injection site, and a possible infection in the disc. Some people react badly to the medications used or contrast dye and have an allergic reaction. In case of an unsuccessful procedure, nerves can be affected, resulting in a nerve injury.


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