A discography is an invasive pain diagnosis procedure that is used to help in accurately identifying back pain that may be caused by one or more discs. An MRI is able to display the disc anatomy, but it is indiscernible from an MRI whether the damaged disc is causing pain. Discography provides an image of the disc from real-time x-ray, or fluoroscopy, which can reveal defects such as tears and degeneration. The results can either be used to determine an appropriate treatment plan for back pain or in preparation for spinal fusion surgery. Also, this procedure can determine if the patient has concordant pain, meaning if the pain experienced at home has been recreated.

How is a Discography Performed?

Discography requires local anesthetic and is performed under flouroscopy. An initial guide needle is inserted to the outer area of the disc, followed by another needle inserted within it to inject contrast dye into the center of the selected disk. This pressurizes the disk and based on the patients’ prior pain experience, it will indicate whether the disk is healthy or diseased. After injecting the contrast dye, images of the affected disk or disks can be taken. Patients are conscious throughout the procedure because as each disc is pressurized, they are asked to describe the type of pain previously experienced. A positive discogram replicates a patient’s symptoms of pain.

What should be expected?

The procedure generally takes less than an hour, depending on the number of discs examined. Patients may temporarily experience discomfort or pain for a few hours after the procedure. Patients are recommended to ice the affected area and take ibuprofen or acetominaphen to help alleviate soreness.

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