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Discography - Benefits and Risks


  • No radiation remains in a patient's body after a discogram procedure.
  • Discography images the structural integrity of the disc(s)
  • Discography can aid in treatment planning
  • Discography is minimally invasive and is an outpatient procedure requiring no hospitalization
  • X-rays usually have no side effects in the typical diagnostic range for this exam.
  • Additional CT is painless, noninvasive and accurate.


  • Any procedure where the skin is penetrated carries a risk of infection. The chance of infection requiring antibiotic treatment appears to be less than one in 1,000.
  • There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
  • Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
  • The effective radiation dose for this discogram procedure varies.
  • CT is, in general, not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of potential risk to the baby.
  • Nursing mothers should wait for 24 hours after contrast material injection before resuming breast-feeding.
  • The risk of serious allergic reaction to contrast materials that contain iodine is extremely rare, and radiology departments are well-equipped to deal with them.
  • A discogram is generally a safe procedure. However, there is a risk of the following complications:
    • infection of the space between discs
    • worsening of chronic back pain
    • headache
    • nausea
    • injury to blood vessels or nerves in and around the spine
    • bleeding
    • temporary numbness or weakness
    • nerve damage