Rapid MRIs No Better Than X-rays for Low Back Pain Evaluation
people with low back pain, an initial evaluation with rapid
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) does not result in a better
outcome than with x-rays. In addition, rapid MRI incurs greater
health care costs over the course of treatment and increases
the likelihood of surgery, new data demonstrate.
In the study,
researchers randomized 380 adults with low back pain to an evaluation
with rapid MRI or x-rays. The patients’ primary
care physicians were then allowed to follow whatever course of
treatment they deemed appropriate for the patient.
After 12 months,
patients in each group had similar levels of disability, pain,
and general health. Patients in the rapid MRI
group were more likely than those in the x-ray group to undergo
low back surgery (6% vs. 2%).
While both patients and doctors
preferred rapid MRI, the authors of the study do not recommend
an MRI for patients treated for
back pain by a primary care physician, unless future research
reveals an advantage over x-rays.
Journal of the American
Volume 289, page 2810
June 4, 2003