Topic Overview

Discography is a medical procedure that involves injecting a dye into the jellylike centre of a spinal disc to help diagnose back problems.

During discography, a doctor looks at the amount of pressure needed to inject the dye into the disc, whether it causes pain that is the same as your regular pain, how much dye is used, and how the dye appears on X-ray after it is inside the disc.

Most people have changes to their spinal discs as they age, but these changes usually do not cause any symptoms.

If your doctor suspects that a disc is causing symptoms such as back pain, you may have discography to help find out if disc changes are causing your symptoms.

Discography has been largely replaced by simpler and more effective methods for basic testing. It is sometimes still used in hard-to-diagnose cases or before surgery. Discography may increase the risk of having disc problems.footnote 1 Most experts no longer recommend it.footnote 2 If your doctor recommends discography, experts recommend getting a second opinion before having this test.

Related Information



  1. Carragee EJ, et al. (2009). Does discography cause accelerated progression of degeneration changes in the lumbar disc: A ten-year matched cohort study. Spine, 34(21): 2338–2345.
  2. Chou R, et al. (2009). Interventional therapies, surgery and interdisciplinary rehabilitation for low back pain: An evidence-based clinical practice guideline from the American Pain Society. Spine, 34(10): 1066–1077.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

Current as ofMay 22, 2015