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Lumbar Discogram

The intervertebral discs help the spine support the weight of your body while still allowing movement between your vertebrae.

A lumbar discogram is a diagnostic procedure used to determine if pain is coming from a specific disc(s) in your spine. The key diagnostic feature is a reproduction of the pain by injection into the disc(s) in your back.

Patient guidelines (PDF) ›

Procedure overview (PDF) ›

What is the goal of the discogram?

The goal of a lumbar discogram is to determine if one or more of your intervertebral discs is causing your pain. A surgical procedure may be suggested based on the results of this test.

What happens before a treatment?

You will be escorted to a room where a nurse will conduct a pre-procedure interview.

The physician who will perform the injection reviews your medical history, previous imaging studies, current medications and physical exam results in order to help plan the best approach for the injection. If you have not had a physical exam prior to the injection, the physician will perform an exam at this time.

What happens during the procedure?

You will remain awake during the entire process. Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing are continually monitored.

After you are lying face down on the procedure table, the injection site is cleansed with an antiseptic. This procedure involves inserting a needle through the skin, muscle and soft tissues, so there is some slight discomfort involved.

An injection of local anesthetic (numbing medication) will be administered in the area where you are experiencing pain. The physician then directs a needle with the use of X-ray guidance and deposits the medication. This procedure takes approximately 30 minutes.

Should I limit my activity or change my diet after the injection?

No. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you may return to your usual activities and resume your normal diet immediately after the injection.

Are there any side effects caused by discogram?

  • You may experience increased pain and pressure in your back with additional pain radiating down your lower extremities. This can last for several hours to several days and can be significantly greater than before the procedure. You can apply ice to the area for as long as 15 minutes, three to four times a day for localized pain.
  • You may experience some dizziness during or soon after the injection and this is more common after injections in the neck.

Are there any restrictions after discogram?

Yes. You should follow these restrictions:
  • Do not drive for the remainder of the day
  • Do not take a tub bath or soak in water (i.e. pool, hot tub) for 24 hours after the procedure
  • Allow three days post-procedure before resuming physical therapy

What are the medications used for discogram?

  • Lidocaine or bupivacaine are local anesthetics which are used to numb the area of injection; this numbness usually wears off within two to six hours
  • Cefazolin or Clindamycin is an antibiotic injected into the disc
  • Iopamidol, an x-ray contrast agent, is injected into the area to confirm correct placement.

When should I call my doctor?

You should call us immediately if any of the following occur:
  • If you experience any swelling, redness, bleeding or discharge from the site of the injection
  • If you have a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If you experience new or worsening back or neck pain
  • If you experience a new numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
  • If you experience new difficulty with urination after the injection, like difficulty urinating or suddenly losing control of your bladder
  • If you experience new difficulty with your bowel movements after the injection, like suddenly losing control of your bowels
  • If you develop a new headache after the procedure
To be seen by one of our specialists, call 949-UCI-PAIN (949-824-7246) or request an appointment online ›

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To reach a doctor or nurse during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), call 949-824-7246 and leave a message. Your call will be returned within 12 business hours.

After business hours or on weekends: call the main hospital at 714-456-7890 and ask the hospital operator to contact the doctor on call by paging 3386.