A discogram is a test to find out if back pain is caused by damage to a
There are many causes of back pain. The discs, the facet joints, the
ligaments, the muscles and the nerves can all cause back pain. Discograms
are recommended when the source of back pain is not certain. Discograms,
first used in 1948, are done by placing tiny needles into suspect discs. A
small amount of X-ray dye is injected. Research has shown that if typical
back pain is reproduced by the injection, the disc may be the source of
complaints and one of several treatments may be helpful.
The type of treatment depends on the kind of pain, the duration of
symptoms, the X-ray and MRI findings, and the age of the patient. Physical
therapy, chiropractic, pain medications, acupuncture, and
pain blocks may
all help. If these fail, an abnormal disc can be partially removed,
treated with a laser or coagulated with an electrical current. It is
possible to replace the bad disc with bone. In the future, a metal and
plastic device called an “artificial disc” may be available.
A fusion is a major surgery where the disc is replaced with bone. The
abnormal (painful) disc is removed while preserving adjacent (non-painful)
levels. Depending on discogram findings, fusions may work 90 percent of
the time. Since this is a major surgery, common sense dictates that the
fusion operation be approached cautiously and other treatments such as
IDET be considered.