A discogram, also known as a discography, is a procedure that assists physicians in evaluating back pain and finding painful spinal disks. A discogram may be suggested if persistent back pain persists after conservative treatments and physical therapy. Discograms are also used before spinal fusion surgery to identify disks that need to be removed.
After lying down, physicians will administer medication for relaxation.The mid-back will also be numbed with an anesthetic. Patients will remain awake during the procedure and will be asked to describe pain or discomfort.
In order to place the needle into the targeted disk, the physician will use a video x-ray device called a fluoroscope. In some cases, more than one disk will be tested and a needle will be placed in each one. Once a disk has been identified, a contrast dye will be injected to raise the pressure in the disk. Patients may feel pressure or pain after the dye is injected. When pain is experienced, it is usually an indication that the disk is diseased. The fluoroscope will also take images of the disks so they can be studied by the physician.
After the procedure, the needles will be removed and the patient will remain in the procedure room for up to an hour for observation. Before the patient leaves, the physician may request a more detailed scan of the disks. It is normal to have some pain at the injection site in the lower back for several days after the procedure.