Approximately one-half of patients with lower back pain have pain originating from a disc. And although an MRI can detect many problems associated with discs, it cannot determine which disc is necessarily painful.
Discography is a very specific diagnostic procedure used to determine the exact level of disc disease that may be contributing to your pain. Basically, it is an x-ray procedure that serves to identify the origin of the pain by reproducing the pain. Several discs will be studied during the procedure. A needle will be used to inject dye into the discs and the doctor will observe the spread of the dye. We will observe your pain response at each level to determine if it matches your usual pain. Often, a CT scan is performed afterwards for further documentation.
The length of the procedure depends on the number of discs tested, which is determined during the procedure. After your discography, you will be sent to a nearby facility for a CT scan. Allow 2 to 3 hours for the procedure.
If your discograms are abnormal, surgical fusion may be contemplated. However, there are new disc-heating procedures that may help milder conditions. Your physician will discuss all options with you during your follow-up visit.