Discography is an invasive procedure to help determine the origin of back pain. During a discogram, fluid is injected into the intervertebral discs of the spine. An interventional radiologist records the patient’s response to the injection. This helps determine if the discs are the source of back pain. Discography can also detect disc degeneration and annular tears.

How to prepare for a discogram
Discography is an invasive, specialized procedure. Because of this, some special preparation is required. Please follow this guide before your discogram:

  • Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the procedure.
  • Tell the technologist if you are or may be pregnant. Discography is generally not performed during pregnancy because of the potential risk of embryo/fetal injury.
  • Stop taking Coumadin (Warfarin), Plavix (Clopidogrel), Ticlid (Ticlopidine) and Pletal (Cilostazol) with permission from the prescribing physicians for 5 days before your discogram. If you take Coumadin (Warfarin), a Prothrombin Time (PT) and INR will be obtained here at the clinic before the procedure.
  • Stop low-molecular weight heparin therapy with Lovenox (Enoxaparin), Fragmin (Dalteparin), Normiflo (Ardeparin) or Orgaran (Danaparoid) with permission from the prescribing physician for 24 hours before the discogram.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.
  • Bring a copy of the order for the procedure from your referring physician.
  • Bring a copy of your personal identification and health insurance information.

Download the discography preparation guide.

What to expect during a discogram
A discogram usually takes 20-40 minutes. Prior to the injection, your skin is cleaned with antiseptic soap and numbed with a local anesthetic. You may also receive a mild sedative. Then, an interventional radiologist uses x-ray to guide the needles into place. Once the needle is accurately positioned in the discs, the radiologist will inject contrast. Your response to the injections will be recorded, and you will be asked to describe any pain you feel. Once the procedure is finished, bandages will be placed over the puncture sites. The sites should remain dry for the next 24 hours. After discography, a technologist will take a CT scan, as well. After a short period of observation, you will be discharged.

After your discogram, please follow these guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of clear liquids – at least 8 ounces every hour on the day of the procedure.
  • Resume a regular diet and any medications you routinely take (including pain medications).
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol for 24 hours.
  • Lie flat with your head slightly elevated for 8 hours.
  • Do no drive the day of your procedure.
  • Do not engage in strenuous work, exercise, physical therapy or lifting for 48 hours.

The most common side effect is a temporary increase in pain. You may resume your normal medication, including pain medication, after your procedure. Bed rest and cold compresses are sometimes helpful to reduce pain. One of our board-certified interventional radiologists will review the images and send a report to your physician.


Dr. Steve Blount talks about discography. Learn more about what to expect during a discogram.

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