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Worried about discogram!

I have to have a discogram at L5-S1 before I have a fusion. So, I've been doing some research on what it's like and all I've read is that it's the worst pain those who've had it have ever felt. People were saying it's worse than the fusion itself! So I'm just wanting to know if anyone has had this test and what is was like. I've never been scared of a medical procedure before, but I'm kind of freaking out about this.
Lauren Davidson


  • The discogram is I'm sorry to say, the worst pain I've gone through. They want to confirm the source of your pain to the level they need to fuse. There are three possible reactions to the test. 1) it feels like pressure. 2) yeah it hurts there. And 3) OMFG Followed by a chandelier scream. All while you are forced to be perfectly still to avoid being crippled.
    It's a great tool but the reality is it hurts like hell.
    Sorry to be blunt but there's no other way to describe it. Good news is it will definitely recreate your pain and prove they have the right culprit in mind to fuse.
    Good luck.
  • I didn't feel the discogram was too bad. You get some IV meds that make you loopy, but alert enough to respond to the doctor. Then you get numbed up before the needles are stuck in. I had 4 levels tested at once, which meant 4 needles all inserted at the same time (from L2-L3 through L5-S1). It's over pretty quickly then you should get pain meds, whether through IV or injection, right after it's over. The worst pain was when they found the problem discs, but I was expecting worse going into it.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • My doctor used an Anesthesiologist for mine. Apparently he would bring me in and out of consciousness enough to "scream". However I don't remember a thing.
    Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil
  • mine was nowhere near as painful as the nerve conduction test, now that was torture.
  • Same as Jen.
    I was sedated and brought in and out of sedation to give responses. I only have vague recollection of the whole deal. It wasn't bad at all really.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 02/14/2014 - 4:37 PM
    You guys are lucky they could sedate you for your discograms! My doc wanted me sober and wide awake. It was hellish; I won't lie. He had to do 3 levels (L3-S1). And he couldn't tell me what levels he was doing at what time, in order to not have an anticipated response from me. My L3-L4 level was the control, since that level was healthy, and it was painless. But the other two, dear god, they were awful. I was in tears. It took me about an hour to stop shaking after the procedure.

    I don't mean to scare you. Try to think of it as a necessary evil in order to better understand your back pain, and ultimately feel better. Once it's done, you'll be happy!

    For me, after the pain wore off, and he injected the lidocaine, I felt really good. So good in fact, that I ended up doing the same procedure 3 more times in 2013 with him injecting lidocaine and steroids to reduce the disc and tissue swelling. The procedure is the same as a discogram but is done therapeutically and not diagnostically and includes an injection of cortisone. It was the best pain relief treatment I ever had, and until my discs were completely shot, was worth the pain.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • LaurenBrianneLLaurenBrianne Posts: 25
    edited 02/16/2014 - 9:38 PM
    I really hope they give me some sort of IV meds or something. I didn't even freak out about my last surgery as much as I am about this! What was the pain like afterwards? Did it take a while for you to recover from it or was it just like getting the epidural injections and being back to normal the day after? I heard a couple of people say that it was like recovering from surgery for them. :/
    Lauren Davidson
  • That's the good news! They didn't give me meds before hand because they needed me alert to confirm the affected levels. I had all lumbars done and I actually have an addtl level which isn't that uncommon I'm told. As soon as you're finished with the test hey can load you up w pain meds and ease it. Then the CAT scan to see the cotton balls or spiders as the case may be. Mine were all spiders, leaking inn the injected liquids from multiple tears at every level.
    You'll be back to normal pain, (something is just wrong with saying that as if its a good thing), the next day.
  • LaurenBrianne said:
    I really hope they give me some sort of IV meds or something. I didn't even freak out about my last surgery as much as I am about this! What was the pain like afterwards? Did it take a while for you to recover from it or was it just like getting the epidural injections and being back to normal the day after? I heard a couple of people say that it was like recovering from surgery for them. :/
    I was stiff for a few days after, but didn't have any pain. The doc who did my discogram made sure I had pain meds and told me to take Advil to help with any inflammation.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • Hope3HHope3 Posts: 751
    edited 02/17/2014 - 10:59 AM
    I hate to tell you but it is true I never experienced any type of pain like that.
    I used some really bad language and he did not sedate me like I read in some of
    the other posts. I screamed out when he hit the bad spots. Of course I found out
    he wrote on my chart that I had a Charlie Horse. (He was known around town which
    I found out later as a worse less doctor). Others are right it is a excellent test if
    done by the right Doctor.
    I wish the best and focus on what good can come of it.
  • I had one done for L4-S1, it wasn't that bad. I was sedated too and brought back for the testing, it hurt but was not as bad as my worst back pain. I'm sure you can ask the Dr if you will have meds during the procedure. I was a mess the next few days but from the anesthesia, and only a little sore
    Herniated discs & DDD at L4-L5 and L5-S1; ALIF L4-L5 & L5-S1 on 1/10/2014;
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