Examining a damaged disc to determine pain source

Discography helps determine the nature of your back pain by injecting dye into the affected disc for review on X-ray

What is a discography?

Chronic lower back pain can be very difficult to diagnose and treat. If you’ve already had an MRI scan, then your consultant may recommend discography to help determine the cause of your back pain and to develop a treatment plan.

Need to know

  • What happens during a discography? icon plus

    During a discography, a radio-opaque dye is injected into the jellylike centre of a spinal disc. This makes the disc visible on an X-ray or fluoroscope (an X-ray which captures movement), so that your consultant can examine it. If the disc is normal, the dye remains in the centre of the disc.

    If the disc is torn, the dye will spread through tears found in the disc. Your consultant may wish to follow up the discography with a CT scan.

    As the dye also shows up on CT scans, this can be done immediately afterwards. The procedure usually lasts 15- 30 minutes and you will be sedated.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    One of our radiologists will carry out the discography, but your consultant will explain the procedure to you beforehand and answer any questions you may have. You’ll need to avoid food and drink the night before your discography procedure.
  • After a discoggraphy icon plus

    You’ll recover in the radiology area for a while. As you will be sedated, you should arrange for someone to help you get home afterwards.

    Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you.

Our back specialist consultants

We're proud to work with leading orthopaedic and spinal neurosurgeons who specialise in conditions and disorders of the back and spine.

Lower back pain

The Spine is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae and between each is a disc which acts a shock absorber in the spinal column.

Sometimes these discs can wear out and press on the spinal cord or nerves causing lower back pain

Our locations

From complex back surgery to diagnostic tests and scans, we provide exceptional orthopaedic care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Book diagnostic tests and scans

Our advisors can help with enquiries about booking a diagnostic scan and can help you book an appointment for a diagnostic test or scan once you have been referred by a GP or consultant.

Call us on

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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