Overview & Procedure
Discography, also called a discogram, is a diagnostic injection procedure that helps determine the cause and location of lower back, groin, or hip pain. This diagnostic technique is generally used to evaluate whether interventional pain therapies or minimally invasive spine surgeries should be used to mitigate the patient’s pain condition. This procedure is especially helpful for patients who have not responded to conservative pain care.
During a discography, patients are placed on an operating table with fluoroscopic (x-ray imaging) guidance attached. The physician will mark areas of the patient’s back to ensure accurate needle placement throughout the procedure. Once the area has been sterilized, the physician will administer a local anesthesia into tissues surrounding the damaged discs to minimize patient discomfort. Small needles are then placed into the center of the affected spinal discs before the physician “pressurizes” each one. After the discs have been pressurized, the physician will get feedback from the patient regarding their pain levels and general discomfort. During this time, pictures will also be taken of the spinal discs with the fluoroscopic unit. The needles are then removed.
Immediately after the procedure, patients are sent to a separate room to recover. During this time, the patient’s vitals are monitored for any signs of an adverse reaction. The procedure usually takes less than an hour to perform, and patients are sent home the same day. Often, patients are scheduled for a CT scan directly after the procedure to further confirm the diagnosis. Mild soreness from the needle punctures is common and should subside within a few days. A Southwest Spine and Pain Center physician may recommend over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and soreness from the procedure. Applying an ice pack will also ease pain around the injection site(s). As with any other minimally invasive procedure, there is a risk of complication. Patients should report increased pain, fever, and any sign of an infection to their Southwest Spine and Pain Center physicians immediately. After the procedure, a physician may recommend follow-up treatments.