Discogram Procedure Information

Your doctor has recommended you for a discogram. This is a test to determine if back or neck pain is being caused by a weakened, damaged or displaced disk. Disks are cushionlike pads made up of cartilage and a jellylike substance. They act as shock absorbers between the bones in the spine.

This procedure works by attempting to cause a pain similar to that you experience regularly. Each suspect disk is tested in turn. If the test duplicates your usual pain, the disk under examination is considered to be the source of the problem.

Franklin Moser, MD, director of Interventional Neuroradiology, heads our team of imaging physicians, nurses and technologists who specialize in these procedures.

Why choose the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center for interventional neuroradiology procedures?

Before Arriving for Your Procedure

  • This procedure carries the risk of complications. You and your doctor should fully discuss the risks and the benefits of this procedure in advance.
  • You will be contacted by a member of our team the day before your exam (between 4 and 6 p.m.) and given instructions on how you should prepare and what time you should arrive. If you are not contacted, please call 310-423-4125 early in the morning of your procedure (such as 6 a.m.).
  • You should have your doctor's office fax all orders and lab results to Cedars-Sinai the day before your procedure: 310-423-0108.
  • You should plan to arrive two hours before your scheduled procedure (three hours if you have not had all your pre-op lab work done).
  • You should not eat or drink anything from the midnight before your procedure.
  • You should consult with your physician about taking your regular medications prior to your exam. Some medications (such as Coumadin or Plavix) should not be taken before your procedure.
  • You will not be allowed to drive after the procedure, so you should arrange for someone to help you get home.
  • We want to make your waiting time as pleasant as possible. Consider bringing your favorite magazine, book or music player to help you pass the time.
  • Please leave your jewelry and valuables at home and please wear comfortable clothing.

During Your Procedure

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown.
  • An IV will be started, which will be used for a relaxation medication. You will remain awake throughout the procedure.
  • You will be asked to lie on your stomach or side on an examination table.
  • Monitors will be placed on you to measure your heart rate, blood pressure, and the oxygen level in your blood.
  • Your back will be cleaned.
  • Images of your back will be taken using a fluoroscopy machine (a form of X-ray). This will allow the physician to precisely identify the location of your disks. The physician might mark the location of certain disks with a pen.
  • A local anesthetic will be used to numb the skin on your back.
  • The physician will then take a needle and place it in the center of a disk.
  • A special X-ray dye, often mixed with an antibiotic, will be injected into the disk. This will increase the pressure in the disk. In a normal disk, this will not cause pain, but in a damaged disk it will.
  • If there is pain, and it is the same as the pain you usually experience, then the physician can conclude that the disk is the cause of the problem.
  • More than one disk may be tested including a normal disk, which will be tested as a reference.
  • The discogram procedure usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
  • If a suspect disk is found, a CT scan is often performed to determine the condition of the disk.
  • You will be kept for observation for 30 to 60 minutes and can then go home.

After Your Procedure

  • You may have an increase in back pain for a day or two after the exam. This can be treated with ice packs and pain medication.
  • This exam is not a treatment, it will not lessen your back pain. It will, however, help your physicians to determine the cause of your pain and decide on a course of treatment.
  • The results of your discogram will be sent to your physician who will discuss it with you.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center provides a full range of advanced imaging, both radiology and cardiology, as well as interventional radiology and interventional tumor (oncology) treatments to the greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, Encino, Mid-Cities, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Toluca Lake and West Hollywood.