Patients Considering Back Surgery: Should You Consider a Discogram, First?

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Patients Considering Back Surgery: Should You Consider a Discogram, First?

doctor pointing to spinal disk

Advanced medical technology now lets doctors treat patients’ pain with minimally invasive techniques. In the case of back pain, however, surgery is sometimes still the best option. But determining which surgery and whether or not the outcomes outweigh the risks is important. The discogram is a diagnostic tool that can help answer both questions.

A discogram helps physicians better identify if discs are the source of a patient’s back pain, and if so which disc or discs are the cause. The procedure helps doctors predict the outcome of surgical procedures being considered.

During the discogram, the patient is given a local anesthetic and sedative to help remain calm but still conscious. A needle containing a liquid dye is injected into the disc and travels throughout it. CT scans are taken to track the movement, helping doctors determine if the disc is torn, bulged or scarred. A patient’s reporting of any pain he or she feels as the liquid enters the disc also helps pinpoint the problem disc. This procedure is repeated for each disc identified as the potential pain source.

Back surgery carries an element of risk and can have a long recovery time. The discogram is a great way for doctors and patients to have more specific information on which a surgical decision can be made.