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Finding and treating the pain in your neck and back

A discogram uses X-rays and special dye injected into your spinal disks to help determine if back pain could be caused by an abnormal disk in your spine.

Preparing for a discogram

  • In the eight hours prior to your procedure, you may only drink clear liquids. You should not eat or drink anything in the three hours immediately prior to your procedure. Clear liquids include water, colas, coffee without cream, tea and apple juice. DO NOT drink milk, orange juice or any juices containing pulp.
  • Do not drink any alcohol for at least 24 hours before and after your procedure.
  • An adult will need to drive you home. Your exam will be rescheduled if you do not have someone to drive you home.
  • If you are taking Coumadin or have an allergy to X-ray dye or antibiotics, please inform the radiology department when scheduling your exam. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before your exam.
  • Please arrive an hour before the scheduled exam time and wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that is easy to get in and out of.
  • Please bring any prior exams of your back and give them to the technologist when you go into the exam room. Be sure to ask the technologist to return those films before you leave.
Have an appointment?
Find out what documents to bring

For your safety

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Your doctor may decide to postpone the exam or use an alternative exam such as ultrasound to reduce the possible risk of exposing your baby to radiation.

This exam requires you to consume a contrast medium. If you have allergies or asthma, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast. Most reactions result in itchiness or hives. If you have asthma and have an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, you may experience an asthma attack. In very rare instances, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in your throat or other areas of your body. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or thyroid conditions also increase your risk of reaction to the contrast medium. Tell your technologist or doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms during or after your exam. Our staff and physicians are prepared should any type of emergency situation occur.

What to expect during a discogram

Before the procedure, a nurse will place a needle in a vein in your arm. You will be given an antibiotic to prevent infection and a mild sedative through this needle. During the procedure, the nurse will be with you to check your blood pressure, pulse, breathing and oxygen level.

You will be asked to lie on your stomach. A small pillow may be placed under you to tilt you toward the side that is painful. The lower part of your back will be cleaned with a betadine solution and the radiologist will numb your skin and muscles with an injection. An X-ray machine called a fluoroscope will help determine which discs the doctor will study. He or she will then guide a small needle into the disc identified and inject a special dye.


A radiologist will review your exam images and report the findings to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings and next steps with you.