What is a Discogram?

A discogram is a test used to determine if one or more discs between the bones of the spine are the source of your pain. A special dye is injected into the discs to look at the disc structure in more detail. To ensure proper placement of the needles the test is done under fluoroscopy (a type of low dose X-ray).

What is the purpose of a Discogram?

The discogram is done to locate the specific discs, if any, that are contributing to your pain. The results are then used to determine if more advanced treatment is right for you. The discogram is not a treatment for pain and should not be done unless you are seriously considering surgery or similar treatment(s).

How is the procedure performed?

After you check-in, you will be asked to put on a hospital gown and then lie on a stretcher in the holding room. An IV is started for medications and safety. A brief pre-procedure history will be taken and you will then be transported to the procedure room where you will be positioned on the X-ray table. Although you will be awake throughout the test you will be given medicine if you so desire. After being positioned on the X-ray table, your skin will be cleaned with sterile soap. Anesthetic is injected to numb your skin and muscles over the spine. After this, fluoroscopy (X-ray) is used to guide a needle into the proper location and contrast dye is injected into the disc. You will be asked about any discomfort that the injection produces and whether or not this reproduces your pain. After the test, you are taken to a recovery room where you'll need to rest for at least 60 minutes before going home.

The entire process for check-in, preparation, recovery, and checkout will take several hours. The procedure itself takes about 30 minutes, however, more time is spent in the procedure room in preparation. The purpose of a discogram is to see if we can set off your pain, so increases in pain can be expected. The procedure will be stopped immediately at any time upon your request. Following the procedure you may experience some increased discomfort for about 2-3 days.

What are the risks involved with a Discogram?

Every medical procedure, no matter how small, contains some risks. Anytime a needle is placed into your body there is a risk of tissue injury, infection, and bleeding. If this occurs in or near the spine it can result in nerve damage. Although extremely rare, severe nerve damage and death have occurred following spine injections. Injections near the spine also risk puncturing the dura and can cause headaches. More common risks include a temporary increase in pain, local tenderness after the injection, allergic reaction to medication, and side effects from steroids.