Back Pain and Spine Physicians in Colorado
Telephone: (303) 762-0808
Fax: (303) 762-9292

Understanding Medical Tests: Discography (Discogram)

Discography is a specific test to tell if a damaged or abnormal disc is causing pain. This is not a routine test. It may be performed prior spinal disc surgery to determine which disc levels will be treated.

How do I prepare for discography?
Discography may involve mild sedation. General guidelines include those listed below. However, please discuss a more thorough list with your doctor well in advance of your test date.

  • Do not eat solid food after midnight before your discogram
  • Ask your doctor about medications you can and cannot take the morning of your test
  • Bring someone with you who can drive you home
  • Leave jewelry and valuables at home
  • Dress comfortably

How is discography performed?
Discography, an invasive procedure, is performed under fluoroscopy (similar to x-ray, except in real time) in a sterile environment. To help you relax during the procedure, mild sedation may be administered. An antibiotic may also be given intravenously before and after.

You may be positioned, with pillows for support and comfort, on your side, or in another position. The injection sites are cleaned with an antiseptic and the skin numbed using an anesthetic.

Under fluoroscopic guidance, a contrast agent is injected into the center of selected discs. The contrast enhances the disc's anatomical characteristics and may spread outside the disc if abnormal. As each disc is injected with contrast, you are asked to describe your symptoms, such as the intensity and type of pain experienced. When discography replicates your symptoms, it is called a positive discogram. If symptoms are not replicated, it is a negative discogram. Discography can be uncomfortable, although symptoms are temporary.

The procedure may take 45-minutes, depending on the number of discs examined.

What happens after the test?
You may undergo a CT scan of the area examined by discography. The CT images provide your doctor with additional information about your spinal disorder. Thereafter, you are kept for a brief period of observation (30-minutes or longer).

Expect to experience some discomfort, or pain, for a few hours after the procedure. If your pain becomes intense, please contact us so we can quickly help you to be more comfortable.

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By using this website, you acknowledge that you have read and agreed to the terms of our legal disclaimer. The information provided is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. For additional health information, please contact our office.