How Reliable are Tests used to Detect Disc Herniation?

How to Detect Disc Herniation

Back pain that is caused by a herniated disc can usually be detected from a routine physical exam. However, in many cases, additional tests are necessary to pinpoint the specific location of the herniated discs. The reliability of such tests can vary, often depending on what type of test is being done.

At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, our advanced diagnostic team can determine the cause of advanced spinal problems, thus allowing them to recommend the most appropriate treatment options. A few tests that our Beverly Hills back surgeons use to help with a disc herniation diagnosis include:

  • X-Rays

    X-rays aren’t all that reliable when it comes to pinpointing the location of a herniated disc. As opposed to detecting the affected disc, the purpose of an x-ray is to rule out other back-related issues such as broken bones, spinal misalignment and tumors.

  • Computerized Tomography (CT scan)

    Unless a disc is significantly bulging, a CT scan isn’t likely to provide a conclusive diagnosis. It does, however, determine the overall stability of the spine and can help doctors and specialists better understand the health of the spine and possible causes for pain.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    Due to the detailed images provided by this testing method, doctors can usually pinpoint the location of the herniated disc with great accuracy from an MRI, including which nerves are affected and whether or not multiple discs are herniated.

  • Myelogram

    A myelogram is a test involving the injection of a dye into the spinal fluid. Following the injection of the dye, x-rays are taken to show areas of the spine sustaining added pressure due to herniated discs. This type of test is more reliable than an x-ray by itself since it can help a doctor determine what areas of the spine to check.

Realistically, patients are going to benefit most from a combination of tests to determine the location of a herniated disc, the extent of the damage and the most appropriate treatment. The reliability of disc herniation testing will then depend on how the results are interpreted, which is why it’s important to work with a professional and experienced board-certified orthopedic surgeon in Beverly Hills.

If you are interested in learning more about treatments for herniated discs or are seeking a second opinion about a diagnosis, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today and schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Bae or a member of his world-class surgical team. We are here to help you find relief for your pain and discomfort. Call 310-828-7757 today.