The reproduction of symptoms on arthrography of the lumbar facet joint has been accepted as a screening procedure before localised spinal fusion. We studied the histology of 127 facet joints removed at operation from 84 patients, who had previously had facet arthrography. The specificity of the arthrographic results for degenerative joint disease was 75% but their sensitivity was only 59%. This gave a positive predictive value of 85%, but a negative predictive value of only 43%. We conclude that the production of symptoms during facet arthrography is of little value as a screening procedure.