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Discography – About the Exam

Discogram, or discography exams help determine whether a specific intervertebral disc may be the source of back pain in patients. This outpatient procedure at Mountain medical may be performed prior to surgery to help identify discs that need to be treated or removed.

Intervertebral discs are sponge-like cushions between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine. Each disc has a strong outer layer called an annulus and a center part, called a nucleus, made of a soft, rubber-like material. When discs rupture or bulge, they may press on the nerves of the spinal column and cause weakness or back pain.

What you can expect during a discography:

  • In a discogram exam, a contrast material is injected into the center of one or more spinal discs using x-ray guidance while you lay on the examination table on your side.
  • During the exam, you must be awake in order to communicate any of the symptoms you might experience during the test.
  • After the discography is complete a CT exam may be performed to further analyze the injected disc(s).
  • When contrast material spreads outside a disc, it may indicate that there are fissures in the outer ring of the disc.
  • A discography exam is usually completed within 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how many disc levels your radiologist wants to evaluate.
  • Following the exam, you will be taken to an observation area for 30 to 60 minutes.

Learn how to prepare for a discography.

Learn the benefits and risks of discography.

Watch the X-ray - What to Expect Video.