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Refusing a discogram & My Story

rocker2000rrocker2000 Posts: 15
edited 06/10/2015 - 12:52 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
hi there,

brief history -

1994ish - l4/l5 disc herniations - l4/l5 discectomy

2011 - l5s1 went - l4/l5 n l5/s1 disectommy/scar tissue removal

now - lots of back pain, getting options and considering fusion

i wonder if anyone has refused to have a discogram done.

i'm loath to have one done for two reasons -

* don't really need any convincing my discs are stuffed

* i don't want a needle stuck into my healthy l3/l4 (for control purposes in the test).

when i had my consultation with the surgeon i thought he said it was optional if i wasn't convinced it was discs causing my current back pain, but his admin staff are insisting i do it and won't put me through to him in person to double check (unless i book another appointment).

im considering a fusion and i know in the scheme of things a discography is a smaller issue but i don't want to harm my healthy discs that are left

anyway was just curious if anyone else has refused to have this test done.

Welcome to Spine-Health

It would be very helpful if you could provide us with more details. So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong,

Here are some questions that you should answer:

  • - When did this first start?
    - Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
    - What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)
    - What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?
    - What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)
    - What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)
    - Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
    - Is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
    - What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
of your situation and make it easier to respond.

Please take a look at our forum rules: Forum Rules

Please remember that no one at Spine-Health is a formally trained medical professional.
Everything that is posted here is based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research.
As such, no member is permitted to provide

  • - Analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie MRI, CTscan, Xray, etc)
    - Medical advice of any kind
    - Recommendations in terms of Medications, Treatments, Exercises, etc

What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are
I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways its like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then its up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 06/10/15 09:18 est
1994 - herniated disc l4/l5 l5/s1 - sciatica - l4/l5 discectomy
2011 - l4/l5/ l5/s1 herniated disc/scar tissue - sciatica - discectomy
now - recurrent disc protrusion l5/s1, lots of back pain, considering fusion/adr



  • itsautonomicitsautonomic LouisianaPosts: 1,802
    That's a tough one , because it's been proven the needle does speed up degeneration on healthy disc ( tested on pigs in reasearch paper, their disc is somewhat similar). For me it revealed tears that they didn't know about , led to stopping surgury and regroup and attack treating tear. I'm 85 percent better in thoracic spine after that and it's a small issue in my life if at all. I would consider myself healed if not for other health issues arising so I am biased but your concerns are valid. But I also would not want to do fusion on disc that may not be pain generator or the biggest issue which would have been my case as we believed my herniiation was the issue until tears revealed to be biggest pain generator.
    Do your due dilegence, trust you know your body and question everything if it does not fit. Advocate for yourself and you will be suprised what will be revealed trusting your body and instinct.
  • I was scared of doing it, but my Dr wouldn't do my fusion without it. I'm glad I got it done though. I would have never believed almost all my pain was coming from the disk it was.
    Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Surgery (Open) L2/L3 (23Mar15)
  • katie.e.kkatie.e. Posts: 27
    edited 06/10/2015 - 5:48 AM
    Im 23 and was warned that it would hurt, but didnt really look into it, it had to be done either way. so i went through with and it was horrendous. absolutely awful. BUT it confirmed his thoughts and provided a 100% answer. after about 4 days, i was back to being ok. but those 4 days were really rough. if your doctor wants to do it to confirm your problem, i would say do it. they probably wouldnt do my fusion without doing the discogram. plus, it will probably help with the approval process with your insurance if they can definitely prove its your disc.
  • thanks for everyone's comments

    i guess my other concern is if the test aggravates the bad discs due to the pressure increases, i could be stuck in limbo with extra pain and no access to surgery etc. it takes 4 moths to get in to see these specialists etc. plus whether i have the money for the surgery gap if that is hastened into reality etc.

    i think i might try and find out if they can do the test without putting a needle in the healthy discs. after going through this with bad discs, i don't want the healthy ones developing issues (well at least minimising the chance of them developing issues).

    i thought i'd include my story here for anyone whose interested in reading the sorry saga..


    *** BACK GROUND:

    *** 1st SURGERY

    circa 1994 is, bad leg pain both, had trouble standing for more than 1 minute with bad leg pain worse when attempting to walk.

    ct scan showed herniation at right l4/l5, some disc issues at l5/s1

    subsequent ct myleogram focussed attention at l4/l5

    waited a year for surgery due to all the bad things id heard about it, plus tried all the usual suspects - chiro, acupuncture, osteo etc.

    after trying chiro/physio etc had discectomy at l4/l5 confirming large herniation on right l4/l5.

    relieved a lot of pain but had ongoing issues/strange pains on left leg and back didn't feel "right"

    *** 2nd SURGERY

    15 yearish later bad leg/calf pain on left side.

    mri revealed herniation at left l5/s1, and what looked like extrusion at left l4/l5.

    had laminectomy/discectomy at l4/l5, l5/s1 (removed scar tissue) left.

    what looked like extrusion on mri at l4/l5 was actually scar tissue from surgery on right side (apparently it can sometimes "bleed" over).


    In essence the surgeries reduced the leg pain, but back pain took over. Big problem is the back pain.

    There is some pain in left foot particularly inner two toes. However this has VERY SLOWLY reduced and doesn’t bother me as much as the back pain so to speak. Legs often feel very restless, like a very low level painless throb.

    Sitting painful. Havent worked a normal full time job in 5 years. Just eek by with bits of part time work. All the other issues people have with back pain, i.e. reduced sex life & long suffering girlfriend, depression, feeling of no future etc.

    *** CURRENT MRI & EMG shows –

    Dessicated l4/l5, l5/s1

    Some loss of disc height

    Severe foraminal stenosis at l5/s1 due to disc bulging

    Reccurent/Remnant 7mm disc protrusion left l5/s1 (not exactly sure if it reprotruded or the protrusion was never touched during the surgery, just the extruded fragments were)

    scar tissue

    Pic in avatar.

    Had an EMG that returned positive i believe the term is, i.e. strange signals in legs , however leg pain is not my main pain problem pain wise.

    Considering fusion. I’ve gotten 5 different specialist opinions to date :

    (1) dr that performed the last discectomy. Did a straight legged raise which didn’t elicit much pain and said “its not the disc”. Gave me a stare of death and left the room and said to me “don’t rush into fusion”.

    (2) wait , it might get better on its own (I’ve been waiting 20 years)

    (3) definitely fusion alif 2 levels (thought adr was contradicted by previous surgeries)

    (4) definitely adr l4/l5, fusion l5/s1 (using a constrained artificial disc, not a general one to avoid facet stability issues)

    (5) ALIF if anything, but up to me, i.e. he didn't have a strong feeling it was necessary


    Hard to say as I don’t recall a specific linked trauma event.

    Personally, I tie it to over decades of ridiculous amounts of work sitting as a computer programmer, average 10 hr days with lots of sitting but also with lots of crunch times to be coding for 16 hrs a day. Young and stupid - how did i ever think that stuff was fun? Plus 1-2 hr commutes every day , combined with efforts to get fit once outside cubicle hell, e.g. weight training, weekend warrior activities. And probably some falls along the way didn’t help during my adolesence, i.e. at skate rink etc.

    Also during work even as a programmer where i'd have to lift heavy stuff during support tasks unaided i.e. UPS, heavy departmental printers (the old hp 4si printer was around 50kg, 120 pounds) and heavy servers.

    So the combination of all the above probably took its toll.


    Sit as little as possible.

    Hang from chinup bar.

    Massage , stretching, around anterior pelvic tilt etc.

    Tens unit to loosen back muscles.


    various attempts at decompressive exercises e.g. swimming with a harness around waist that it fixed to end of pool etc
    1994 - herniated disc l4/l5 l5/s1 - sciatica - l4/l5 discectomy
    2011 - l4/l5/ l5/s1 herniated disc/scar tissue - sciatica - discectomy
    now - recurrent disc protrusion l5/s1, lots of back pain, considering fusion/adr

  • edited 06/10/2015 - 8:26 PM
    but best decision I ever made. I was suffering from failed back surgery and a failed epidural to the area. I was in a very controlled environment steril, just like having surgery they even had me do all my pre op testing. I had it done at a surgical center by a spine surgeon, I know what your saying that you don't want to cause damage to a healthy disk. But there is the chance that disk is NOT healthy. This test eliminated me from having 2 fusions to only needing one. with an annular tear it con not be seen on MRI's bone spects I had it done for 9 months. The test was not painful they keep you comfortable give you things for pain after test make sure your good and you go home complete rest other then walking for about 2-3 days and I had a posterior annular tear l4 l5 that was leaking onto a nerve mine was not healing on its own. Being active never allowed it to heal. If i let this go and just "dealt " with pain I could be looking at sever nerve damage, those 11 months change my life, in constant pain with every activity drs not knowing why so mentally frustrated but the disk you think is healthy could be the bad disk they need to do all 3 levels to determine what nerves are being affected. Again, its a needle that goes into your disk space the dye is not harmful and women have had needles for child birth for ever even after having a failed epidural I needed to know because in the end it is about limitations and movement I could of had a 2 level fusion and not needed it which was the case. 4 weeks post op posterior annular tear/ bone fusion l4l5. If done by someone who specializes in this test it will not cause damage to your disk space. I would do it again if i had to. I figure the pain i was dealing with my quality of life diminished and lost my job why not one more test which I brought to them asking to have it done...
    This can't be happening
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