Injections can be a highly effective form of relief from spine pain since the medication that soothes nerves irritated by inflammation is directly delivered to the affected area. However, such injections have to be carefully placed into the right location to be effective. Being off by even a fraction of an inch can make an injection useless. In some cases, missing the mark may cause unintended damage to healthy nerves. Ultrasound spine injections may provide the added guidance and precision needed to increase the accuracy of placement. Los Angeles spine surgeons are here to explain the basics of ultrasound spine injections.
The traditional approach to using injections for either diagnosis or therapeutic purposes has been to use a thin tube with a camera attached (fluoroscopy). This “real-time X-ray” guides the doctor to the correct location for placement of the needle.
Ultrasound spine injections use high-frequency sound waves and the resulting echoes as those waves bounce to produce an image of the targeted area of the body. There is no need for an X-ray-guided fluoroscopy when ultrasound guidance is used.
Commonly associated with use for identifying or tracking pregnancies, ultrasound (sonography) reduces the risks sometimes associated with X-rays, even when precautions are taken. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, no radiation is required with an ultrasound.
An ultrasound can show more than just bony structures (spine, joints). It also produces images of soft tissues, allowing the doctor administering the injection to clearly view nerves, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, and fluid-filled sacs (bursa). Ultrasound spine injections may benefit patients by:
Ultrasound-guided joint injections are among the most common types of ultrasound injections used to diagnose or treat spine pain or radiating nerve pain (radiculopathy), which usually originates in the lower back or cervical spine due to some type of nerve pressure. Herniated discs are a common culprit.
An ultrasound-guided scar tissue hydrodissection is often performed to separate healthy tissues from scar tissues with an injection of a sugar-based IV fluid (dextrose). Ultrasound injections may also be used to manage spine and joint pain with regenerative medicine techniques involving the patient’s own stem cells and platelet-rich plasma to encourage tissue healing and growth.
Whether or not ultrasound spine injections are recommended will depend on the location of the specific nerve or area of inflamed tissues. There are no set standards to determine if X-ray guidance or ultrasound is used. It’s up to the doctor performing the injection to base the decision on the patient’s suspected condition and medical history. However, ultrasound is becoming the preferred method for the placement of needles for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes because of increased accuracy and the ability to view more internal structures.
Ultrasound spine injections are just one of many types of spinal treatments. To alleviate chronic back or neck pain, many people opt for a fusion procedure or an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles patients seeking relief for their pain can trust in Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute. If you’d like to set up an in-person evaluation, please call 310-828-7757 today.