What is a discogram procedure?

Many people experience both lower back pain and leg pain. These symptoms can emanate from several sources within the spine itself, including a herniated disc, a degenerated disc, nerve compression, as well as degenerative arthritis. The discogram can help clarify if a patient’s symptoms are coming from a degenerative disc and if so at what exact level. The response to the discogram can determine whether or not a patient will be an appropriate candidate for spine surgery.

How is a discogram done?

This lower back and leg pain diagnostic procedure is performed as an outpatient at our surgery center. Local anesthetic is injected into the skin and back muscles to minimize any pain. Intravenous sedation is given throughout the procedure. A needle is then inserted into the disc space being examined. This is performed under fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance for both accuracy and safety. Water and radiopaque dye are injected into one or more discs. The patient is asked whether the injected disc recreates his pain, verifying the diagnosis.

The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes, plus an additional 30 minutes of recovery time before discharge. Patients will need to arrange for transportation to take them home. Patients can resume normal activities and medications the day of the procedure.

Discogram preparation

You will be asked to discontinue all aspirin products 14 days prior to the procedure and any anti-inflammatory medications 7 days prior to the procedure. Please note that you cannot either eat or drink six hours prior to the procedure. Make your physician aware if you are taking any anti-coagulant medications (blood-thinners), such as Coumadin or Heparin, if you might be pregnant or have any drug allergies.

Side effects and complications

Common side effects include a worsening of back and leg pain that can last up to one week. Local bruising and tenderness may also occur. No treatment is necessary unless the side effects fail to improve. Rare complications include bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, as well as bone or nerve injury. These latter complications are exceedingly rare and usually can be medically managed as an outpatient.

Your physician will be happy to answer any further questions regarding your discogram procedure.