What is a Discogram? How does it work?

A discogram is a test that is done prior to spinal disc surgery, when an MRI is unable to discover the cause of discomfort. A contrast dye is injected into spinal discs in the problem area, to let your physician determine which disc is damaged and the exact issue that is causing pain to the patient.

Benefits from a Discography

A discogram is believed to a better method for finding the root cause of a patient’s pain rather than an MRI, which only shows how your spine might differ from a “normal” one. Discograms help guide your physician in treating abnormal discs.


During this procedure you will be awake, but sedated and numbed with local anesthetics, so you can clearly communicate with your doctor. You will be given antibiotics to lessen the chance of infection and the problem area will be sterilized. Your doctor will use a real time x-ray imaging machine to allow precise placement of the needle, and when positioned correctly, they will then inject the dye. If you feel discomfort during the injection of the dye, then the source of your pain is identified, and is called a positive discogram. If dye is injected and you do not report pain then it is considered a negative discogram, and your doctor may continue on to inject a couple other vertebral sacs.

Risk Factors

There is a risk of complication with any medical procedure. Take time to discuss treatment options and any questions you may have with your physician, before agreeing with a procedure.