Back pain is a debilitating medical condition, often with an unclear source. Over time, back pain can affect the work and lifestyle of an individual by reducing job productivity and time spent on enjoyable activities. Discography of the intervertebral disc (IVD) is often used to diagnose pathology of the disc and determine if it may be a source for chronic back pain. It has recently been suggested that discography may lead to IVD degeneration, and has been a cause of controversy among spine care physicians. Using the results from a cadaveric experimental model, a finite element model was first validated. Then, a study was conducted to better understand the changes caused by discography on human spine mechanics. An anatomically accurate L3-L5 lumbar spine model was developed using computed tomography scans. Discography was simulated in the model as an area in the disc affected by needle puncture. The material properties in the nucleus pulposus were adjusted to match experimental data both before and after puncture. The results show that puncture of the IVD leads to increased deformation as well as increased stresses in the disc. Pressure in the nucleus pulposus found to decrease after puncture, and was calculated in the course of this study. Puncturing the IVD changes disc mechanics and may lead to progressive spine issues in the future such as disc degeneration. While discography has been the gold standard to determine if the disc was a source of back pain in patients for many years, the potential long-term degenerative effects of the procedure are only now coming into light, and must be closely examined.

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