A discogram is a diagnostic test using x-rays, which is used for examining intervertebral discs of the spine. This is an invasive procedure, which involves the use of a special dye that’s injected to the concerned disc, so that the disc becomes visible for further diagnosis. At times, when a patient complains of back pain, a discogram is used to find the actual disc or a series of disc that’s damaged and is causing pain.
The Need for a Discogram:
Usually, when an x-ray is done, only the overall view of the bones and vertebrae can be seen. A discogram allows the doctor to check/view the actual disc that’s causing the problem. During the procedure, your doctor will insert the needle into the disc space through the skin, so as to view the disc on a monitor, which is also called a “fluoroscope” in technical terms. The doctors will take the necessary steps to ensure that the needle is in the place as needed, and that’s when a dye is injected, which appears to be white on the fluoroscope. Apart from viewing the disc, a discogram also allows doctors to find the actual source that’s causing the back pain. The dye is injected in the space of the disc, so as to create pain to locate the source. The pain you feel will be the same as you feel normally. Additional diagnostic tests might be needed if a discogram doesn’t show or identify the pain-causing disc. In most cases, it is used to find a degenerative disc.
Getting the Test Done:
A discogram is usually done as an outpatient procedure, and a pain doctor might be present as the radiologist does the test. Your doctor may have a few dos and don’ts for the procedure. For example, the patient should not eat solid food a night ahead of the test. Also, you should avoid coming in with jewelry. In most cases, IV is used during the procedure, and the radiologist will explain the procedure to you, along with some of the relevant factors that matter. If you have any questions, this is the time to ask the same. If there are any risks involved, he will also explain the same and get your signs on the consent and other relevant forms. Typically, a discogram takes somewhere between 30 to 45 minutes, and it can be uncomfortable for some people.
After The Test is Done:
You will be shifted to another room. Your pain doctor may wait and watch for an hour or so and may advice you to drink a lot of water, so as to get the dye flushed out of the body. Rest is important, but avoid taking painkillers if you have any pain. There are a few risks for patients who are allergic to dyes, so if you have a history of that, do mention the same.