A discogramis an evaluative test that is used to evaluate back pain in patients. The test is used to determine whether an abnormal disk in the spine is the cause of back pain.The spinal disks act as cushions between the different bones in the spine.During a discogram test, a dye is injected into the soft center of the spinal disks.
Regular X-rays give a clear picture of only the bones, but a discogram enables the doctor to view the spinal discs as well. A hollow needle is inserted through the skin into the center of the spinal disk, while the doctor views it over an x-ray monitor called the fluoroscope. The dye causes the disk to show up white in the x-ray. A number of disks may be injected to find the cause of pain, and the injection too at times may reproduce the back pain. The dye then moves into the cracks (if any) in the exterior of the disk, which can then be seen through an X-ray or CT scan.
Why is it done?
The discogram is an invasive test and is not something that is used for an initial evaluation of back pain. It is normally performed when back pain persists despite other conservative treatments like physical therapy and medication. Discograms may also be performed before a spinal fusion surgery to help in the identification of the disks that need to be removed.
A discogram is a safe procedure generally, but as it is with any medical procedure, there are certain risks of complications associated with the test. These possible complications may include:
- Worsening of chronic back pain
- Injury to nerves in and around the spine
- Allergic reaction to the dye
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