A discogram is an investigation which will help your surgeon to see which level of your spine may require surgery. It is usually performed only on patients who the surgeon feels may need or benefit from spinal surgery for maybe a spinal fusion or an IDET treatment.
Discogram or diagnostic discography is an X-ray procedure that can help to determine the source of your lower back or leg pain. This procedure is used to determine if a degenerative or worn out disc is the cause of your back pain. They enable the surgeon to determine the level of the fusion required or to confirm disc degeneration which is unclear on MRI scans. A discogram is hardly ever used to diagnose the cause of back pain.
If you have been suffering from severe back or leg pain, this may be due to a worn-out disc but it is not always very easy to tell which part of your spine is causing you this pain. You may have already had an MRI or CT scan but because these investigations have not determined for definite where your pain is coming from, your doctor has asked us to try to find
out which part of your back is affected.
At the time of injection, there is usually some pain which may be similar to or different to your usual pain, so you will be awake in order for you to experience the sort of pain you are in. I’ve had this done twice and although it is obviously quite uncomfortable it helps the surgeons decide on possibly some very import surgery. You are mildly sedated so you soon forget how bad it was.
It is done as a day case and you lie flat face down and a local anaesthetic (lignocaine) is put on your skin. Under X-ray control, the needle is advanced into the disc space in question and they dye (which is visible on Xray) is then injected during which you will be asked whether this causes the type of pain you are suffering. The procedure is then repeated at another level if necessary.
This procedure can aggravate the pain for a few hours after the procedure or in my case a few days but I just increased my pain killers. The pain disappeared gradually. If the disc is the source of your back, spine, extremity and/or leg pain the injection will temporarily reproduce your symptoms, thus resulting in a positive discogram. If the disc is not the source of your pain the injection will not reproduce your symptoms or cause any discomfort, thus resulting in a negative discogram.