Orthopedic Discography

This test is used to find out if an abnormal disc causes back pain.

Discography involves inserting a needle under image guidance (fluoroscopy) into the suspect disc. Fluids are then injected into the disc. One is a dye to create contrast to make the disc show up better. The other fluid is used to cause variations in pressure inside the disc to see if the doctor can recreate your symptoms. You most likely will be given a mild sedative for your comfort during the test.

A computed tomography scan and X-rays are taken to see if or where dye is pushing out the sides of the disc. Afterward you will be taken to a recovery area and monitored for 30 to 60 minutes. Your doctor also may prescribe pain medication that may reduce any muscle discomfort following the procedure.

Discography is usually reserved for when surgery is planned. It helps identify if the discs above and below the painful area are functioning properly. While other types of imaging diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can identify abnormal structures, they cannot confirm the source of pain. Discography potentially can provide precise diagnostic information.

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