What is a Discogram?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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An interesting name like discogram is bound to confuse some people. It may sound like a singing telegram delivered by someone dressed as if he just walked off the set of Saturday Night Fever, but a discogram is actually a medical test. It is diagnostic in nature and used to pinpoint the cause of back pain by establishing whether or not a disc is injured. This is accomplished by injecting a special dye so the disc can be seen via X-ray.

A disc cannot be seen clearly on a typical X-ray, so injecting the dye is necessary to make it observable and to determine if the disc in question is causing the patient's pain. A discogram is generally not the first choice in detection methods, but it is often used after an MRI has produced inconclusive results regarding a possible herniated disc. A discogram may also be used to offer a patient a second opinion in cases for which back surgery is indicated.


With a discogram, as with any X-ray procedure, there is some risk associated with radiation. If you are pregnant, could be pregnant, or suffer from cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, inform your healthcare provider before undergoing a discogram. Other risks include sensitivity or allergy to the dye, as well as the possibility of the disc becoming infected. If you are concerned about risk factors, consult with your healthcare provider. In addition, if you have not had a CT scan or MRI before the discogram is recommended, you should ask if one of these less invasive tests might be utilized first.

If you and your doctor agree that a discogram is the best course of action, he or she will prepare you for the test. It should last just over one half hour. A local anesthetic will be administered to deaden sensation in the test area so a long needle can be inserted. The physician will guide the needle to the appropriate disc and begin injecting saline or another fluid. This fluid will create pressure, allowing the doctor to determine whether or not the disc is the cause of your pain. After this part of the procedure, the dye will be injected and the X-ray will be taken.

After reviewing the discogram, your physician should be able to determine whether or not surgery is necessary or how intensive the surgery needs to be. Discuss a discogram and any tests, treatments or procedures with a qualified healthcare professional for more information before making decisions.


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Post 8

A discogram is nothing like a myelogram. For me, or anyone with a true disc tear or a diseased disk, it was the most painful experience of my life. It redefined the number "10" on the pain scale.

They usually shoot up your bad disk (1, 2, or 3) plus a "control disk." You will not fake this test. The control disk will have you reporting no pain, but when they go to pumping up the bad disks (I have two) I sobbed. A 48 year old man, and I cried like a baby right in the OR.

For my procedure they put me out, then woke me up after inserting all the needles. I think, in certain cases like

mine, where there is obvious disk damage, this procedure is just an unnecessary, sadistic exercise into the true meaning of pain -- all for the insurance company's benefit.

After a couple of days, I was up and running about as well as before (which isn't saying much) and of course, the dramatic conclusion that I really need lumbar fusion was repeated.

Wish I had better news to tell you. If you know you have a bad disk, God help you with this test.

Post 7

I am set up to have a discogram. Is this an extremely painful procedure?

Post 5

how much is the normal cost for a discogram?

Post 3

I would like to know if the discogram is anything like the milogram?

Post 2

I would like to know how long the diskogram takes and also what I need to do afterwards when I get home and the side effects..

Post 1

I'm having a discogram done and I'll like to know about how long are you out of work for this procedure or if you are out at all.

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