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What Is a Discogram?

A discogram is a test in which contrast dye (a type of fluid that show up on X-ray) is injected into a disc in your spine. Under X-ray, the fluid allows the radiologist to see if  the disc is normal or not. The test may help pinpoint which disc is causing your back or leg pain. It is often done when certain treatments for your pain, such as surgery, are being considered. As part of the test, an image of the disc is taken. This image shows where and how the disc is damaged.

X-ray of spine with disk highlighted in black.
A discogram image.

Risks and Complications of a Discogram

A discogram can have risks. Your doctor will discuss them with you. Some possible risks include:

  • Bleeding

  • Spinal fluid leak

  • Infection

  • Nerve damage

Let the Health Care Provider Know

For your safety and the success of your test, tell the health care provider if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Have any bleeding problems.

  • Take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or other medications, including aspirin, herbs, or supplements.

  • Have any allergies.

You will also be asked questions about your overall health.

Preparing for Your Test

Prepare for your test as instructed. Allow plenty of time before your appointment to check in. You will need to sign a form stating that the test has been explained to you. If you have questions, ask them before you sign the form. Your visit can last several hours. Be sure that you:

  • Stop taking medications, herbs, and supplements before the test as advised by your doctor.

  • Tell your doctor if you have any allergies.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the test.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the test.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barbuto, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Last Review Date: 2/20/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.