A discogram is a diagnostic procedure that is usually performed after nonsurgical treatments have failed. It is common for people to try more than one method of pain relief. If pain continues after several months, a discogram is considered to help pinpoint the exact disc that is causing the problem, in order to formulate a new treatment plan, which may include surgery.
On the day of your procedure, you will be asked not to take any pain medication. You will wear a gown for the procedure. You will be positioned in a way that your doctor can access the affected area of your spine, such as lying on your front. Before the procedure begins, the affected area of your neck or back will be sterilized and numbed with an anesthetic. You may receive relaxation medicine and antibiotics before your procedure.
Your doctor will use a live X-ray image (fluoroscopy) to carefully insert and guide a needle to the outer layer of the suspected disc. A second needle is moved through the first one. The second needle is guided to the center of the disc. If more than one disc is suspected, this process may be repeated on the other discs as well.
After the needle is positioned in the center of the disc, contrast dye is injected. The contrast dye may cause temporary pain. You will be asked to rate your pain and asked if the pain is similar to that of your symptoms. If more than one disc is being tested, this step is completed at each one. The needles are removed following the evaluation.
The second step in discography uses an X-ray to show where the contrast dye has spread. The pattern of dye within the disc can help determine if the disc is abnormal. At this time, a computed tomography (CT) scan may be used to show more detail about the extent of the rupture or tear pattern, as well as the size and shape of the disc.
You will be monitored for about 45 minutes before you can return home. Another person should drive you if you received relaxation medication. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication to ease the temporary pain caused by the procedure. Your doctor will discuss your results with you and present options for future treatment.