SMIL offers discogram, or discography scans to help determine whether a specific intervertebral disc may be the source of back pain in patients. This outpatient procedure may be performed prior to surgery to help identify discs that need to be treated or removed.
Intervertebral discs are sponge-like cushions between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine. Each disc has a strong outer layer called an annulus and a center part, called a nucleus, made of a soft, rubber-like material. When discs bulge or rupture, they may press on the nerves of the spinal column and cause back pain or weakness.
In a discogram scan, a contrast material is injected into the center of one or more spinal discs using x-ray guidance while you lay on the examination table on your side. This injection may temporarily reproduce the patient's back pain symptoms. During the exam, you must be awake in order to communicate any of the symptoms you might experience during the test.
After the discography is complete a CT scan may be performed to further analyze the injected disc(s). When contrast material spreads outside a disc, it may indicate that there are fissures in the outer ring of the disc.
A discography scan is usually completed within 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how many disc levels your SMIL radiologist wants to evaluate. Following the exam, you will be taken to an observation area for 30 to 60 minutes.
Learn how to prepare for the scan in the discography preparations section.
Find out if this procedure is right for you in the benefits and risks of discography section.
For a downloadable/printable PDF about this exam with preparation instructions click here.