A discogram (also known as discography, disc stimulation, or a diskogram), is an interventional diagnostic imaging test that helps determine if one or more intervertebral discs are the source of back pain.
Discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine. During the procedure, a dye or contrast material is injected into the soft center of the disc (or series of discs) so that an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan, called a discogram, can be taken. The discogram may be normal or may show tears, fissures, or other damage to the disc. A discogram is a test, not a treatment; the results of a discogram are used to plan treatment of the disc itself. A disc can appear abnormal on a scan, or show signs of wear and tear, but may not be causing pain, so the usefulness of a discogram is controversial.
Discography is a relatively brief 30-45 minute outpatient procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. Lumbar or thoracic discograms for discs in the back are done with the patient lying on the stomach. Cervical discograms for discs in the neck are usually done with the patient lying on the back. Monitoring is done during the procedure. Discography will do nothing to improve pain, and in fact patients are advised to expect a temporary increase in pain for one or more days after this procedure, as the injection itself may temporarily reproduce back pain symptoms.