Home » About Us » News » 2010 News » New Procedure Acts as “Road Map” to Diagnose Back Pain

New Procedure Acts as “Road Map” to Diagnose Back Pain

February 15, 2010

As many as one in eight Americans suffer from back pain at some time in their lives, but for many, getting to the source of the pain can be an equally painful process. Kenmore Mercy Hospital is helping these individuals with the use of a new enhanced x-ray procedure called a discogram.

When a damaged disc is the likely culprit, but fails to show up on a conventional x-ray, MRI or CT scan, a discogram can help doctors pinpoint the source of the pain and determine the best way to treat it.

Jafar W. Siddiqui, MD, whose practice involves the diagnosis and treatment of pain related disorders, is now performing discograms at Kenmore Mercy – one of only a handful of local hospitals offering the procedure.

Dr. Jafar Siddiqui injects fluid into the disc of Niagara Falls resident Charles Ellsmore to measure his pain response.
Dr. Jafar Siddiqui injects fluid into the disc of Niagara Falls resident Charles Ellsmore to measure his pain response.

Discograms are primarily used by neurosurgeons to determine if surgery is likely to alleviate back pain when more conservative treatment options, such as medications, injections, physical therapy or activity restrictions, have failed to provide any relief after several months.

“Discograms test back pain differently by injecting fluid into the disc and measuring the patient’s pain response,” explained Dr. Siddiqui. “This provides us with a pre-operative ‘pain road map’ to get to the source of the pain and determine if surgery, such as spinal fusion, may be needed.”

During the procedure, a radiographic dye is injected into the center of the disc under local anesthesia to deliberately trigger the patient’s pain symptoms and isolate the disc or discs causing the pain. When combined with CT imaging, the dye makes the damaged disc clearly visible and can show if a disc has begun to rupture or has tears in its outer ring.

“This type of structural damage can be a primary cause of pain within a damaged disc,” Dr. Siddiqui added. “Once we know exactly where the pain is coming from and what’s causing it, we can determine the best surgical approach to relieve the pain.”

Discograms can be performed on any area of the back where a patient feels pain. The entire procedure usually takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to complete.

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