Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your discogram.
The total time for the test is about three hours, the discogram itself takes about 30 minutes. You'll be able to go home later that same day.
During a Discogram
A discogram is performed in a clinic or hospital room that has the imaging equipment. You are awake during the procedure, but your doctor may give you a sedative through a vein to help you relax. You may also receive antibiotics to help prevent infection.
During the procedure, you lie on a table on your abdomen. After cleaning your skin, your doctor may inject a numbing medicine to decrease pain caused by the insertion of the discography needles.
Your doctor will use an imaging technique (fluoroscopy) that enables him or her to watch as the needle enters your body.
Fluoroscopy allows more precise and safer placement of the needle into the center of the disk to be examined. A contrast dye is then injected into the disk, and an X-ray or CT scan is taken to see if the dye spreads.
If the dye stays in the center of the disk, the disk is normal. If the dye spreads outside the center of the disk, the disk has undergone some wear-and-tear change. These changes may or may not be the cause of your pain.
Typically, if a disk is causing your back pain, you will feel pain during the injection that's similar to the back pain you have daily. If a disk is normal, there's little pain during injection. During discography, you will be asked to rate your pain.
After a Discogram
You remain in the procedure room for approximately 30 minutes to one hour for observation. Someone will need to drive you home.
It is normal to have some pain at the injection site or in the low back for several hours after the procedure. You will need to keep your back dry for 24 hours after the procedure.
If you develop severe back pain or you develop a fever one to two weeks after the procedure, call your doctor right away.
6 Procedure Results
Your doctor will proceed to view the results and the information you gave him about the pain you experienced during the discogram.
Both of these are vital in pinpointing the source of your back pain. Your doctor will make use of this information to guide your ongoing treatment or prepare for surgery.
Doctors do not usually rely on the results of the discogram alone to be able to guide treatment. This is because wear-and-tear changes in a disc might not cause pain. Also, pain responses during a discogram can vary widely.
Typically, the results of a discogram are combined with results of other tests, such as MRI or CT scan and physical examination when determining the treatment plan for back pain.
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