Sciatica is a clinical diagnosis. In other words, the doctor will be able to make the diagnosis based on the patient's medical history, a physical examination, and description of his or her symptoms. If the patient has had sciatica for only a brief time and has no sign of any other diseases, no lab studies or X-ray films may be needed.
- If the pain has been present for several weeks, the patient may get special studies of his or her back: either CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.
- If the patient has a history of cancer, HIV infection, IV drug use, or has been taking steroids over a period a time, the doctor may want to see plain X-ray films of the back or a bone scan.
- Occasionally, laboratory studies may be helpful. A CBC (complete blood count) may suggest infection, anemia due to certain cancers, or other unusual causes of sciatica. Elevated sedimentation rate may suggest inflammation somewhere in the body. Urinalysis can suggest a kidney stone if there is blood in the urine, or infection, if there are bacteria and pus in the urine.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2015
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