In a prospective study we attempted to define the role of lumbar discography in the investigation of patients with low back pain with or without non-dermatomal pain in the lower limb. The records of 195 patients were studied at least two years after a technically successful operation. Of 137 patients in whom discography had revealed disc disease and provoked symptoms, 89% derived significant and sustained clinical benefit from operation. Of 25 patients whose discs showed morphological abnormality but had no provocation of symptoms on discography only 52% had clinical success. These findings support the continued use of lumbar discography for the investigation of this particular group of patients.