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A discogram (discography) is a diagnostic procedure used to determine whether spinal discs are the cause of back pain or to identify which specific discs are the source of the pain.
During the discography, a dye is injected into the center of one or more spinal discs, which fills in the cracks and holes within the disc. The spine is then viewed through X-ray or CT scan so doctors can see where damage has occurred. The discography dye can trigger pain signals within a damaged disc, ultimately re-creating the pain and helping your surgeon identify which discs should be removed.
Discograms are only used when necessary, as the procedure is interventional and doesn’t always work. It’s possible for damaged discs to “pass” the discography test, even when they are the source of pain. Because of this, discograms have become a somewhat controversial procedure within the medical community. However, there are no other tests that demonstrate the functional behavior of what’s happening within a disc. Therefore, discography still has a vital role in diagnosing and treating disc conditions. Your surgeon at Kayal Pain & Spine Center is an expert in this procedure and will fully discuss with you whether it is right for you.
What to expect before, during and after discogram
Before your discogram, you will need to discontinue any blood-thinning medications, including ibuprofen and aspirin. Your Kayal Pain & Spine surgeon will discuss any other medications you’re taking and confirm whether they are safe to continue. In addition, you will be asked not to eat or drink in the hours prior to the surgery.
Immediately after the discogram, you’ll be kept in the procedure room for observation for up to an hour. You are then welcome to go home but will need a friend or family member to drive. You may feel some pain from the injection, which can be treated with ice, as needed. You should keep your back dry for at least 24 hours.
Your Kayal Pain & Spine Center expert will review the results of your discogram and meet with you to discuss your options. In some circumstances, additional tests such as an MRI or CT scan may be ordered to determine the absolute best course of action for moving forward.
Discover the advantages
Discography is used to diagnose painful conditions when conservative healing techniques, including physical therapy and medication, have not been effective. Discograms can help surgeons solve mystery pains when it’s unclear what is causing chronic pain within a patient or they can be used to determine exactly which discs should be operated on during other surgeries, such as spinal fusion.
Discograms provide a more comprehensive analysis of the discs than other diagnostic tests, providing both anatomical and functional information about the discs. It’s the only test available that gives a picture of the discs and also shows how the body is behaving. Therefore, your surgeon can get a more accurate understanding of what is happening inside your body and develop a treatment plan accordingly.
Discography is a safe procedure, with minimal risk of side effects or negative impacts. The surgeons at Kayal Pain & Spine Center have extensive experience with discograms and can determine whether the diagnostic test should be used to help diagnose your pain.