Discography, also known as a discogram, is a diagnostic procedure that helps physicians identify the cause of back pain. This minimally invasive procedure injects sterile liquid into various spinal discs to induce pain. If the patient reports pain during the procedure, the physician can note the pain's location. Discography may be recommended to patients experiencing mild to moderate back pain who have not responded well to conservative treatment. Once the test is complete, physicians will develop an appropriate treatment regimen.
What To Expect
Before the procedure, the patient will lie face down on a table. An intravenous line with sedatives and other medications will be administered at this time. A local anesthetic may be injected into the various test sites to minimize pain and discomfort. The table will be outfitted with an imaging device to help the physician find damaged spinal discs.
Using a fluoroscope, the physician will insert several needles into spinal discs that may be causing pain. Once the need is in place, a contrast dye will be injected. This will induce pressure or pain in the spinal disc. If the patient reports pain, he or she will be asked to rate it on a pain scale and describe its characteristics. The x-ray imaging device will display how the contrast dye moves within the spinal disc. If it stays localized within the disc, there may be little to no damage present. If the dye spreads outside the spinal disc, physicians can speculate serious damage and act accordingly.
Shortly after the procedure, patients will be taken into a separate room to recover. A discogram can take up to three hours to complete. Once the physician has accurately identified the source of a patient's pain, he or she will determine the best form of treatment. Other tests, like an MRI or CT scan, may also be administered to help formulate a diagnosis. Patients will be advised to limit physical activity and stop taking certain medications that may hinder the healing process.