Skip the MRI for Low Back Pain

Posted by: admin on: June 23, 2011

Immediate imaging with X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs for patients with acute low back pain is not recommended for all patients, according to new guidelines by the American College of Physicians.

Imaging tests are appropriate for people with low back pain that may be due to cancer, infection, nerve damage or pain that worsens despite initial treatment.
Signs of these more serious conditions include weight loss, fever, loss of muscle strength, and/or sensation in the legs and abnormal reflexes in addition to the low back pain.

Unnecessary imaging exposes patients to preventable harms, may lead to additional unnecessary interventions, and results in unnecessary cost.
Every patient feels their workup isn’t complete without an MRI but it doesn’t change anything.
If someone has a history of cancer, and there is a reason to suspect that cancer has spread to the spine, or there is nerve damage an MRI will help determine whether or not surgery is needed.

Before insisting on an MRI, see someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating back pain.
Seeing a back pain specialist such as a physiatrist can help reduce unnecessary imaging tests and subsequent spinal surgeries by as much as one-third.
Imaging is over utilized, but the more patients are educated, the more these tests will be ordered appropriately.

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