Discography (Discogram)

Discography, also called a discogram, is a specific test to view and assess the structure of a disc and determine if the disc is the source of the pain. This is not a routine test. Discography may be performed prior to spinal disc surgery to determine which disc level(s) require treatment.


How Do You Prepare for Discography?

Discography may involve mild sedation. General guidelines include those listed below. However, your doctor will provide a more detailed list for you well in advance of your test date.

  • Do not eat solid food after midnight before your discogram.
  • Ask your doctor about the medication you can and cannot take on 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 an 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 is numbed using a local anesthetic.

Under fluoroscopic guidance, a contrast dye is injected into the center of selected discs, enhancing the disc's anatomical characteristics. 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 your doctor.

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