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A discogram is a diagnostic imaging test that helps to determine whether a specific intervertebral disc may be the source of back or neck pain. Intervertebral discs are found between the bodies of vertebrae and act as a shock absorber for the spine while providing flexibility. When a disc bulges or ruptures, or is affected by a degenerative condition, the inner gel-like nucleus can leak out of the disc and press on the nerves of the spine, causing pain or weakness in different parts of the body, depending on where in the spine the disc is located.
During the procedure, a contrast liquid is injected into the center of one or more spinal discs using fluoroscopic x-ray guidance. Once the liquid is injected, a CT scan is performed to visualize the inside of the disc, which may show tears, scarring, or herniation. Once the source of the neck or back pain is identified, your doctor will be able to determine the best treatment plan and/or if you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery to either correct or alleviate symptoms of your condition.
A discogram can be done at several levels of the spine and focuses on the cervical region of the spine if you’re suffering from neck pain, and the lumbar region of the spine for lower back pain. It is important to note that a discogram is more of a diagnostic tool, not a treatment option.