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What is a discogram?

If you’re suffering from lower back pain, then your physician might refer you to a pain management specialist for a discogram. A discogram (or discography) is a diagnostic test that’s used to precisely locate the source of your lower back pain. After a successful discogram, your physician may be able to determine if you have degenerative disc disease. Additionally, the discogram results can help your surgeon better prepare for your upcoming back surgery.

How is a discogram performed?

A discogram is a brief outpatient procedure. During this procedure, you will receive an IV and antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. If you are feeling anxious about the procedure, then a sedative may be given as well. However, you must be awake for this procedure in order for your physician to get results.

Once you’re ready, you will be asked to lie face down on an x-ray table. Under fluoroscopic guidance, your physician will place a needle into each disc that could be the source of your back pain. If your symptoms are reproduced (i.e. you feel pain), then the discogram is determined to be positive, as it’s highly likely that the probed disc is the source of your pain.

Discograms are a little painful and uncomfortable. Depending on the practitioner, you may receive some lidocaine along with the radiographic dye injection in order to minimize your discomfort. You may also receive a narcotic following the procedure.

How effective is discography for diagnosing pain?

Discography can be quite effective for diagnosing lower back pain. In the best-case scenario, you will feel a familiar pain during the discography, which indicates to your pain management physician that a particular disc is causing your pain. If you feel nothing or an unfamiliar pain, then the discogram has not been successful and alternate diagnostic tools may be considered.

What risks are associated with discography?

The only significant risk known to be associated with discography is disc space infection. This can happen if the discography team is not adhering to strict sterile practices. Still, the rate of infection is very low. Other risks (common to any injection-based procedure) include: excessive bleeding, minor infection, allergic reactions, and nerve damage.

Is a discogram right for my lower back pain?

Only your physician or a pain management specialist can answer this question. For more information about discograms – or to schedule an appointment with a pain management specialist – contact Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute today. Pain management services in Mesa, AZ.


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