Sarah Lewis, PharmD

What is a discogram?

A discogram is a diagnostic X-ray that allows your doctor to examine the discs in your spine. Spinal discs are located between each vertebra (bone) in your spine. Discs act as cushions to protect your spine and provide back flexibility. 

A discogram, also called discography, can help determine if your back pain is caused by a spinal disc problem, such as a herniated disc. Your doctor may also use a discogram to guide treatment of diseased discs. 

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A discogram involves the injection of contrast (dye) into selected discs. If your back pain is due to a diseased disc, the increase in pressure from the contrast material may cause temporary pain that mimics your normal back pain. 

Your doctor may only consider procedure discogram if other options with less risk of complications have been ineffective in diagnosing or treating your condition. Other options involve medication, physical therapy, and modifying activities for at least four to six months without back pain relief.

A discogram is only one method used to diagnose the cause of back pain and identify spinal disc problems. Discuss all of your diagnostic options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.  

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to a discogram to diagnose spinal conditions. These include additional X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).