My Experience with Lumbar Discography/Discogram

This is my personal experience with having the lumbar discography (discogram) procedure.  I was taken into an exam room with a curtain across the front.  The nurse tried her best to make me comfortable.  The staff of the Southeastern Spine Institute are very caring, compassionate people.  She started an IV on the back of my right hand and attached a bag of antibiotic (ceftriaxone).  She then turned on a TV
gave me the remote and dimmed the lights to relax me while I waited for the antibiotic to
finish.  I was given a diet coke and I watched Madagascar 2 (seriously, I did ) and it ended
up taking about 30 min.  The combination of things she did really did a lot to reduce my anxiety
level because when I arrived, I was so upset thinking about it that I was fighting back
the tears.  She disconnected the antibiotic tube and flushed it out so they could
use the same connection for the sedation I would get later.  I was then taken to the procedure
room.  I was asked to lie on my stomach and again they did their best to make me comfortable.
an x-ray was set up over me so the x-ray tech could take pictures during the procedure. Dr.
Netherton explained that he would numb the area before doing any injections and would be
testing L (Lumbar) discs 3, 4 and 5.  I asked him if he wanted me to tell him what the pain
was like and he said he would be asking me but mainly they would judge the result from the
amount of dye leakage from the disc spaces that would appear on the x-rays taken.  So that is
different than what I wrote before I had the test.  The x-rays really decide the result not
the patient’s rating of the pain.  After he answered all of my questions, very patiently I
must add, then the sedation was introduced into my IV line.  It hit me immediately and then
my memories become more like snapshots.  I don’t remember exactly what happened moment by
moment but there are certain things I do remember.  There was the pinch of an injection and
suddenly there was a sensation down my right leg all the way to my ankle.  All I can say about
it is that it felt like a lightning bolt with the sensation of heat, almost like an electrical
charge had been attached to me.  I know I yelled that it was shooting down my leg to my ankle
and that is when I began to cry.  I am sure this is hard to read but I want to tell you about
this the way it actually happened.  This was the second injection, the first one hurt but not
like the second one did, it wasn’t as bad. I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe out of
my nose.  The nurse was letting me squeeze her hand and she said she was so sorry that this was
hurting me so much.  The next thing I remember is someone asking me if I wanted a shot of pain
relief and I said yes.  Dr. Netherton said to give me some Toradol (a strong NSAID pain reliever
used commonly after surgery.  NSAID stands for Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug).  I do
not remember actually getting the shot of Toradol aka ketorolac.  Then they handed me 2 x-ray
pictures of my spine during the procedure which are attached to this post.


my discogram during injection 2

my discogram during injection 1

I remember saying
“are these of me?” and they said yes.  Then I remember being in a wheelchair going back out to
the car but I can’t remember getting in the chair.  I was crying and I was aware that people in the
waiting room were staring at me so I thought to myself that I should stop crying so I wouldn’t
scare anyone but I don’t know if I did stop.  It was very difficult to get in the car because
the pain was so awful. I had not taken any pain meds before this procedure.  They never told me
not to but I thought I should avoid them so that I would be able to accurately tell them if it
hurt and how much.  When I got in the car, I took a pain med.  It was hard to get comfortable and
I knew I had an hour ride home.  I texted a few friends who had told me that they wanted to hear
from me after because they were worried but honestly I don’t remember what I said to them.  I don’t remember much about the ride but I do remember getting home and having a hard time walking
to my room.  Brian was very attentive and made me dinner and brought it to me.  The only way I could be comfortable was to lie on my side with pillows between my knees.  Or, sitting  up with my knees bent and pillows under my knees to take the pressure off my low back.  I cannot tell from looking at the x-ray pictures whether it shows if he will do both bad discs during my surgery.  The needles going into the discs are visible and so is the dye.  Based on that horrible shooting pain, L5 is a given but I will have to wait until my pre-op appointment next Friday the 12th to find out for sure.  This morning I woke up and was incredibly stiff, I walked around a little bit but at this point the pain is pretty intense despite wearing my back brace.  I am sitting up to write this but I think I will need to lie on my side today to keep the pressure off.
I am also going to try to take a whirlpool bath and just turn off the jets that aim at my back.
My aftercare instructions were like the ones for the epidural shots, No heat for 24 hours,
only ice and they did send me home with a reusable ice pack.  So, in a nutshell, it was no
cakewalk to have this procedure but the sedation definitely protected me from the worst of it.
They also told me that I could just plan on increased back pain afterwards and asked me if I
needed pain meds but I didn’t I already have them from my primary care doctor.  They will be
prescribing them for post-surgical pain though.  Today I am definitely taking an increased
dose of medicine but honestly it is only just keeping it at bay, definitely not taking it away.

630pm update, well this has knocked me for a loop.  I did figure out a way to take a whirlpool bath by shutting off the jets aimed at my back and turning down the pressure on  the others.  Apparently you just turn the ring around each jet, (I know right, I should have figured that out a long time ago!) and anyway I just didn’t put hot water in it just lukewarm since I am supposed to avoid heat, I was so comfortable that I stayed in there for a record 2 hours!  I never  nap and  I took a 2 hour nap after that , I am still extremely sore almost like I got beat up.  This is a real honest account of what this has been like, I plan to be this honest about the surgery and recovery as well.  Thanks, as always, for reading!


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