What is a Discogram?
A discogram, also called discography, is an imaging test used to evaluate and diagnose back pain. It may determine if a specific abnormal disk in your spine is causing your back pain.
Spinal disks are sponge-like cushions between the bones of the spine called vertebrae. They cushion the vertebra and allow for bending. During a discogram, dye is injected into the soft center of one or more disks. The dye also moves into any cracks in the disk’s exterior, which can then be seen on an X-ray or CT scan.
Why is it Done?
A discogram is an invasive test that generally is reserved for persistent pain that cannot be managed by conservative therapies like medication and physical therapy.
Some doctors use a discogram before spinal fusion surgery to help identify which disks need to be removed. Dr. Johal may use other tests such as MRI and CT scanning to diagnose disk problems and guide treatment.
Specific reasons to perform a discography include the following:
- Persistent, severe symptoms when other diagnostic tests have failed to confirm a suspected disk as a source of the pain
- Evaluation of abnormal disks or recurrent pain from a previously operated disk or disk herniation
- Assessment of patients in whom surgery has failed, to determine whether pseudoarthrosis or a symptomatic disk could be the source of pain
- Assessment of disks prior to fusion to determine whether the disks of the proposed fusion segment are symptomatic and whether the disks adjacent to this segment can support a fusion
- Assessment of candidates for minimally invasive surgery who have a confirmed disk herniation
How is it Performed?
Dr. Johal will use an imaging technique (fluoroscopy) to watch the discogram needle enter your body and disc. Fluoroscopy allows more precise and safer placement of the needle into the center of the disk. Then dye is then injected into the disk, and an X-ray or CT scan is taken to see if the dye spreads.
If the dye stays in the center of the disk, the disk is normal. If the dye spreads outside the center of the disk, the disk has undergone some damage and wear-and-tear.