A discogram is an x-ray procedure that deliberately provokes the patient’s pain symptoms in order to pinpoint its source in the intervertebral discs. The procedure is designed to create a pain “road map,” making the discogram an excellent fusion surgery-planning tool.
Discography is reserved for patients who have not responded to medications and conservative treatments, such as bed rest, traction, or physical therapy, and for whom the possibility of lumbar (lower back) surgery is being considered. Besides studying abnormal discs, discograms can detect problems within intervertebral discs that appeared normal on the CT or MRI scan.
There is very little preparation needed for this procedure. In fact, you may decide to go ahead with this procedure during your initial consultation in our Midtown Manhattan outpatient clinic. The procedure will be fully explained to you before you decide to proceed.
Please bring any previous imaging study results (MRI, CT, x-rays) such as films, reports, or CD-ROMs to your initial appointment. If you do not have current images, we may refer you to have them done prior to the procedure.
If you come by car, you will need a driver to take you home after your appointment. You will be able to go home unaccompanied via subway or taxi.
Please notify our physician if you are nursing or if there is a chance you may be pregnant.
Please be prepared to discuss any medications that you are currently on with our physician, or bring your medication bottles with you to your appointment.
During the Procedure
Using x-ray-guidance (fluoroscopy), a physician will place a thin needle into the center of your disc(s) thought to be causing your pain.
Contrast (dye) is then injected and x-rays are taken.
During and immediately following the procedure, you will be asked to describe what you are feeling (i.e., does it reproduce your symptoms?). A discogram reveals the exact source of your disc pain by awakening the pain symptom in that disc.
When a healthy disc is injected, you will feel little or no pain. If the disc is not healthy, you will feel discomfort.
As soon as that symptom has been recorded, the physician will put the disc to sleep with a local anesthetic (numbing medication).
You will remain awake during your procedure, which takes approximately 15-40 minutes.
In selected cases, a CT exam will follow, depending on the findings of your study and any prior imaging you may have had.
After the Procedure
Some degree of discomfort during and after this procedure is expected.
Limit your stress-bearing or strenuous activities for 24 hours due to expected post-procedure discomfort.
We recommend taking the following day off of work, but the decision to return to work is at your discretion.
A prescription for post-procedural pain medication is available for patients who require it.
Possible Side Effects
Although side effects from this procedure are rare, our physician will review any possibilities with you before your procedure. Possible side effects include facial flushing, occasional low-grade fevers, hiccups, insomnia, headaches, water retention, increased appetite, increased heart rate, and abdominal cramping or bloating. These side effects occur in less than 5% of patients and usually disappear within 1-3 days after the injection. If you experience any side effects, please feel free to contact us at any time.