(Diskogram; Discography; Discogram)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Diskography is an imaging test. It involves injecting a contrast material into a disk in the spine and taking an x-ray. An x-ray is a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body. The contrast material helps the disk appear more clearly on the x-ray.
Reasons for Test
This test is used to detect if a herniated disk or otherwise abnormal disc is a source of pain. Disks are small, circular cushions between the vertebrae (bones) in the spine. A herniated disc occurs when a disk in the spine bulges from its proper place. Herniated disks can press on the nerves and cause severe pain. In some cases, they can cause pain themselves, but often an abnormal disc is not painful.
Possible Complications TOP
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have diskography, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Test
Your doctor may do the following:
Your doctor may instruct you to:
Description of the Test
You will lie on your stomach or side on a table. A technician will help place you into position. You may be given antibiotics through an IV. You may receive an injection of local anesthetic into the skin on your back. This will be done to reduce pain from the needles.
Your doctor will use an imaging test called fluoroscopy. It combines x-ray technology with a TV screen to help guide needles into the disks. A contrast dye will be injected into the center of each disk. If the disk is normal, the liquid will remain in the center of the disk. If it is abnormal, the x-ray will detect any spreading or leaks.
During the exam, you will be asked to rate any pain that is associated with the injections. This can help your doctor find out if it is the abnormal disk that is causing pain. After this test, your doctor may do a CT scan to see the extent of spread of the contrast dye.
The staff will observe you for 30 minutes or more.
If you took a sedative, do not drive, operate machinery, or make important decisions until the sedative wears off.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30-60 minutes (an additional 30-60 minutes if a CT scan is also done)
Will It Hurt?
You may have pain from the contrast dye. Pain can last for several hours.
The results will be given to your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about the results and treatment options.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
North American Spine Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Carragee EJ, Don AS, Hurwitz EL, Cuellar JM, Carrino JA, Herzog R. Does discography cause accelerated progression of degeneration changes in the lumbar disc: a ten-year matched cohort study. Spine. 2009;34(21):2338-2345.
Diskography. North American Spine Society website. Available at: http://www.spine.org/fsp/troubleshooting-diskography.cfm . Accessed May 30, 2007.
Diskography: science and the ad hoc hypothesis. American Journal of Neuroradiology website. Available at: http://www.ajnr.org/cgi/content/full/21/2/241 . Accessed June 6, 2007.
Stout A. Discography. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2010;21(4):859-867.
Last reviewed December 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Last Updated: 12/3/2012