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Results of Surgery for Discogenic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Study Using Discography Versus Discoblock for Diagnosis

Ohtori, Seiji MD, PhD; Kinoshita, Tomoaki MD, PhD; Yamashita, Masaomi MD; Inoue, Gen MD, PhD; Yamauchi, Kazuyo MD; Koshi, Takana MD, PhD; Suzuki, Munetaka MD; Orita, Sumihisa MD; Eguchi, Yawara MD, PhD; Nakamura, Shinichiro MD, PhD; Yamagata, Masatsune MD, PhD; Takaso, Masashi MD, PhD; Ochiai, Nobuyasu MD, PhD; Kishida, Shunji MD, PhD; Aoki, Yasuchika MD, PhD; Takahashi, Kazuhisa MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181a401bf
Randomized Trial

Study Design. Randomized, controlled study.

Objective. To evaluate the diagnosis of discogenic low back pain (LBP) with discography and discoblock.

Summary of Background Data. Discogenic LBP is usually diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging and discography. However, the reliability of discography is controversial. Previously, we reported the usefulness of discoblock with bupivacaine for diagnosis, and discoblock improved the results of anterior interbody fusion surgery. However, that study was not a randomized, controlled study. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to compare the results of surgery after diagnosis of LBP by discography and discoblock.

Methods. Patients (n = 42) with severe LBP showing L4–L5 or L5–S1 disc degeneration on magnetic resonance imaging were evaluated by discography (1.5 mL of contrast medium) or discoblock (intradisc injection of 0.75 mL of 0.5% bupivacaine). We randomized the patients in turn. Anterior discectomy and interbody fusion were performed in patients who responded to the diagnostic procedures. The visual analogue scale score (0, no pain; 100, worst pain), Japanese Orthopedic Association Score (0, worst pain; 3, no pain), Oswestry Disability Index, and patient satisfaction before and 3 years after surgery were recorded and compared between groups.

Results. Twelve patients did not show pain provocation by discography or pain relief by discoblock and were excluded. Fifteen patients who showed pain provocation by discography and 15 patients who experienced pain relief with discoblock were evaluated. Rates of improvement in the visual analogue scale score, Japanese Orthopedic Association Score, and Oswestry Disability Index score in the discoblock group were significantly higher than those in the discography group (P < 0.05) from baseline to 3 years after surgery. Three patients were dissatisfied with surgery after discography compared with one patient after discoblock.

Conclusion. Pain relief after injection of a small amount of bupivacaine into the painful disc was a useful tool for the diagnosis of discogenic LBP compared with discography.

Patients (N = 42) with L4–L5 or L5–S1 disc degeneration were evaluated by discography (contrast medium) or discoblock (intradisc injection of 0.5% bupivacaine). Anterior discectomy and interbody fusion were performed in responders. Improvements in the discoblock group were significantly greater than in the discography group 3 years after surgery (P < 0.05).

From the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan.

Acknowledgment date: July 2, 2008. Revision date: December 23, 2008. Acceptance date: January 5, 2009.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Seiji Ohtori, MD, PhD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan; E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.