A discogram is a diagnostic test performed to view and assess a disc to determine if it is a source of pain. This test is done by injecting a dye into the center of the disc while using a type of x-ray called fluoroscopy. The injection pressurizes the disc and, if the disc is abnormal, will result in a recreation of the pain. Keep in mind that this is a painful procedure that may result in discomfort in your back for a few days afterward. For this reason, we ask that you bring your pain medicine with you. This procedure takes about 2 hours.

In the procedure room, you will meet the radiologist and the technologist (who operates the fluoroscopy equipment). The technologist will position you on your stomach, depending on the area of your spine being injected. Using a sterile technique, your skin will be preped with a cleaning solution to prevent infection. After the local anesthetic, the doctor will then use the x-ray machine to guide and place the needle. Once inserted, the contrast dye is injected and the doctor will ask questions regarding you pain level and location of discomfort. Following the injection of the discs, you will be taken for a CT scan, after which you will return to the recovery area.

After approximately 30 minutes you may go home. Upon discharge, you will be asked to rest for 24 hours and refrain from driving or operating machinery for 24 hours.

Before the Procedure:

Once scheduled for the discogram, you will be contacted by one of the neuroradiology nurses. You will be asked to provide information regarding you current problem, past medical history and medications. The nurse will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare for the upcoming procedure. You will be asked to hold any blood thinning medications such as Coumadin, Plavix, Aspirin, and any NSAIDS. Alcohol is prohibited 24 hours before and after the procedure.

Where to go the day of the procedure:

You will need to check in at Radiology Reception one hour prior to your scheduled procedure time.  This will give us time to get you ready.  One of the staff will pick you up after you have registered.

The Day of the Procedure:

We ask that you do not eat or drink 3 hours prior to your arrival. You must hold any pain medications after midnight, but bring them with you. We do not dispense or provide prescriptions for medications after the procedure. You will need someone to drive you home. Patients without a driver will be rescheduled for another day.

What are the potential side effects of a discogram?

A discogram is a very safe procedure, although there are always some potential side effects to consider, which include a reaction to the contrast dye, bleeding, infection and pain.


How soon can I return to my normal activities after a discogram?

You can return to your normal activities 24 hours after the procedure.

Additional Information

For additional information on the web, we recommend you click on the link below to visit the ACR and RSNA patient information site:



Billing and Insurance

If you are a self-pay patient, a bill will be issued at time of service and mailed to your home. If you are covered by a commercial health insurance carrier, please bring your cards or proof of coverage should be brought with you the day of your study. We will file your claim for you. Please note that you will be billed for any balance not covered by your plan. If you belong to a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) with which we have a contract, you must bring the referral and authorization form for the procedure to be covered. If your visit is due to an accident (work-related, automobile, etc.), you must provide us with an authorization from the guarantor of your bill. Note that separate bills are issued by the UVA (to cover facilities, equipment, and support personnel) and the Health Science Foundation (to cover the services of the physician neuroradiologists). So expect to see two bills for your study.