Diagnosis of Cervical Disc Herniation

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Depending on the clinical history and physical examination of the patient, different tests are requested to confirm the diagnosis of disc herniation, which part of the cervical spine is affected, and to visualise any underlying disease, such as osteoarthritis or vertebral instability.

X-ray cervical area

X-Ray of the cervical spine in order to see the alignment of the spine, the shape of the vertebral bodies, and the spaces between them, as well as the characteristics of the holes where the nerves come out (intervertebral foramen).

Lateral X-ray of the cervical region

Dynamic radiography of the cervical spine, in flexion and extension positions of the neck. This is used to find out if there is instability between the vertebrae that could explainthe origin of the disc herniation.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Magnetic Resonance (MR). It is currently the preferred test. Thanks to this test, the morphology is clearly seen, as well as the relationship of the intervertebral disc with the surrounding anatomical components.  

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

CT or cervical spine scan. From a surgical point of view, this test rarely has a diagnostic capacity at cervical spine level. Bones are large and it is difficult to obtain clear images of a disc herniation. However, it can be useful as a complement test to MR, in order to make a better assessment of whether the disc is hard (osteophyte) or soft.

Person with backs with electrodes on the neck

Electromyogram. Although this is an uncomfortable test for the patient, it helps to differentiate the affected nerve root, using a study of nerve conduction towards the muscles. It is used in patients whose cervical spine has several discs affected and the Magnetic Resonance cannot help to identify which disc causes the symptoms that the patient is suffering.

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Substantiated information by:

José Poblete Carrizo
Salvador Fuster

Published: 25 October 2019
Updated: 25 October 2019

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