No Benefit from Early Imaging for Low Back Pain in Seniors

May 30, 2015

 

Early spine imaging for low back pain in seniors is not associated with better clinical outcomes, according to a JAMA study.

Researchers prospectively enrolled patients aged 65 and older presenting to primary or urgent care with low back pain. Roughly 1200 patients who underwent radiography within 6 weeks of presentation and 350 who underwent early advanced imaging were matched to controls who did not undergo early imaging.

 

The primary outcome — disability score at 12 months did not differ significantly between the early-imaging versus control groups. However, costs were about 30% higher and resource use was 40%–50% higher in the imaging groups.

 

NEJM Journal Watch General Medicine deputy editor Thomas Schwenk comments: "Although this was not a randomized controlled trial, results of this prospective cohort study suggest that the guidelines in which early imaging is discouraged in younger patients might apply equally well to older patients."

 

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