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The vertebrae in the back and neck are separated by discs, which help facilitate movement in the spine and also work to absorb shock in the spine. Over time, discs can begin to degenerate or they may become injured or start to bulge due to repetitive motions, hard impact or other circumstances. A discography may be used to determine whether a particular disc is the source of neck or back pain in a patient.

What is Discography?

Patients with chronic back or neck pain may undergo an MRI to determine whether a disc is herniated or abnormal in any capacity. If one or more discs are affected, a discography may be performed to determine whether disc malfunctions are to blame for a patient’s recurring pain.

During a discography, a local anesthetic is administered to minimize pain at the injection site. Some patients prefer slight sedation during the procedure, although many remain fully alert. A needle is carefully guided past the muscle and into the affected disc using live x-ray imaging. A contrast dye is injected into the center of the disc. The dye then spreads through the tears (if any) within the disc, which may cause temporary pain that mimics the patient’s usual back pain. Following the injection, a CT scan is used to better identify aberrations within each injected disc.

Most discography procedures last under hour from start to finish, and patients typically go home the same day.

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