What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Multimedia

Multimedia

A discogram takes between 30 and 60 minutes, and 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 imaging equipment, so your disks can be examined during the procedure. You are awake during a discogram, but your doctor may give you an intravenous sedative to help you relax. You may also receive antibiotics to help prevent infection.

During the procedure, you lie on a table either on your stomach or on your side, rolled forward slightly. 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 fluoroscopy, an imaging technique that allows him or her to watch as the needle enters your body. This allows precise 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, it means the disk is damaged. It may have begun to rupture or it may have tears in its outer ring. Typically, if a damaged disk is the source of your back pain, you feel pain during the injection that's similar to the back pain you have day to day. If a disk is normal, there's little pain during injection.

After a discogram

After a discogram, you remain in the procedure room for approximately 30 minutes to one hour for observation. Because of the sedation, have someone else drive you home following a discogram. You may have some pain at the injection site for several hours after you go home. If the pain is severe, call your doctor right away.

Feb. 25, 2012