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Cervical Discogram Injection

What does “Cervical Discogram” mean?

Here is the meaning of each word:

  1. Cervical: the part of our spine located in the neck
  2. Discogram: a procedure where medication is injected into a disc for diagnosis

Altogether, “Cervical Discogram” means injecting medication into a disc in the neck for diagnosis.

Why is a Cervical Discogram done?

A discogram is performed to get information about the disc, beyond what an imaging study such as an MRI can give. A discogram can tell the doctor if a particular disc is painful or diseased. Also, the doctor can see if the medication injected into the disc has “leaked out” of the disc, which could mean that there is a tear in the outer ring of the disc (annulus). The doctor may also be able to tell if the disc is herniated. Some doctors also inject a local anesthetic into the disc in hopes of anesthetizing the disc. This way, the patient may not have disc pain after the procedure which could also verify that the disc was responsible for the patient’s pain.

Often more than one disc is tested to see which disc is responsible for the patient’s symptoms. This usually includes at least one normal disc to see what a patient feels when a normal disc is injected. This can then be compared to what is felt when an abnormal disc is injected.

How is a Cervical Discogram done?

Here are the steps of how a Cervical Discogram is done:

  1. The patient will receive an intravenous (IV) catheter before the procedure. Often antibiotics are given through the IV to prevent an infection. Relaxing medication (sedation) is also commonly given.
  2. The patient is taken to a Procedure Room or Operating Room for the procedure.
  3. The patient is placed on the back (supine) with the head turned away from the side on which the procedure is done.
  4. The neck is cleaned with a sterile surgical solution and sheets (drapes) are placed to keep the area clean.
  5. The doctor performing the procedure often wears extra protection against infection, such as a surgical mask, gown and gloves.
  6. An X-Ray machine is used extensively for this procedure.
  7. A small amount of local anesthetic is injected under the skin.
  8. A specialized needle (spinal or procedure needle) is placed through the skin and advanced with the help of the X-Ray machine into the disc itself.
  9. At this point, the patient is instructed that medication is about to be injected into the disc. The patient is informed to tell the nurse and doctor exactly what is felt when the medication is injected into the disc.
  10. The medication contains a contrast dye (fluid which looks dark on an X-Ray). Other medications such as antibiotics or local anesthetics are also often included.
  11. The patient’s response to the injection is noted and recorded.
  12. The X-Ray pictures of the contrast dye in the disc are saved. The appearance of the dye in the disc is recorded.
  13. Usually more than one disc is injected for a discogram to be able to compare the patient’s response to other discs. Often at least one healthy appearing disc is chosen for comparison.
  14. At this point, the needles are withdrawn
  15. Band-aids are placed.
  16. The patient is then taken to a Recovery Area for observation.

How long does it take to do this procedure?

The procedure can take 15-30 minutes to complete for one disc level in the spine.

How do patients benefit from this procedure?

As a patient, the benefit is mainly that the doctor can get information about the discs in the spine. This procedure is not done to relieve pain from a diseased disc for the longer term, but rather gain information about it.