When a person s experiences chronic back ache they will eventually have to see their health care provider for some answers to the cause of this continuing back pain. After going through the first steps of an examination, personal history, a complete physical and blood work, sometimes the health care provider will decide that a more extensive examination is necessary. This will include x-rays. But there are limits to what an x-ray can show so instead they may suggest to their patient the use of a discogram.
A discogram is a method of making an x-ray more readable. A needle is put into a spinal disc where it releases a dye. This dye shows up in such a way as to be read by a different kind of x-ray called a fluoroscope. This allows for a better view of the disc. The health care provider can now tell if the disc is herniated, cracked, deteriorating or if it has become misshapen. Any of these irregularities are known as a slipped disc. If the patient’s spine is suffering from any of these problems then it will account for the pain that they are experiencing because any of these spinal issues can cause pressure that causes pain. The pressure can be in the form of pressure on the nerve itself, on the bones in the spine or around the disc that has “slipped”.
The next step, if disc damage is seen in the first step, is to inject more dye. But instead of just being put into the disc to make it easier to see this time it is put right into the disc to see what happens if the disc is put under intense pressure. If it mimics the pain the patient has been suffering then that is the answer to the pain question. The health care provider now knows the source of their patient’s back pain and can treat it accordingly. If on the other hand there is no pain then the only conclusion is that the pain is being generated from some other point in the back. This may require further tests, including CT scan or MRI, to determine the cause of their patient’s continuing back pain. If the discogram has given a slipped disc as the definite problem that is at the root of the patient’s back pain, then it will be time to treat the patient based on this conclusive evidence.
This kind of test is not without some risks. This is an invasive procedure and so the rare time something can go wrong. Some patients can have an allergic reaction to the dye. The dye can cause an infection inside the disc causing the patient more serious pain then they are being investigated for. Some health care providers shy away from using the discogram instead preferring to use a CT scan or MRI first, feeling there are too many risks to use it safely. While others will assure you that preformed properly its an excellent diagnostic tool.