A discogram is a test used to evaluate back pain in order to determine if there is an abnormal disk in your spine causing the discomfort.
Because spinal discs have a tough outer layer and a gel-like interior, they act as cushions between the vertebrae of the spine.
Usually the patient is given an intravenous solution in case intra-procedural medications are necessary, but sedation is avoided in order to help determine the exact area of the pain. There is a local anesthesia injected to numb the region between the spine and the surface of the skin. This should make the needle insertion portion of the procedure relatively painless.
Dye is injected into the soft center of the disc, or several discs, to pinpoint the exact location of the back pain.
There are three basic responses to the injection:
Feeling of pressure
If the patient feels pain, the physician will need to know if it is familiar pain, or unfamiliar pain. Familiar pain indicates surgical obliteration, or "fusion" of the pain generators may significantly reduce back pain.
Photos are then taken of the dyed discs andany cracks in the disc’s exterior will show up on an X-ray or CT scan.
The entire procedure is usually done in less than an hour, and the only lasting effect may be soreness in the area of the needle insertion. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or an ice pack can ease the discomfort.
Although it is an invasive procedure, the sterile environment should eliminate any chance of infection or complications. An experienced, skilled discographer should be able to administer the procedure so the end result provides a clearer understanding of the exact location and nature of the pain, which can help the effectiveness of treatment options.