CHA Family Medicine Residency

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Early Imaging for Back Pain

Today we discussed early imaging in back pain.

Jarvik JG et al. “Association of Early Imaging for Back Pain with Clinical Outcomes in Older Adults.” JAMA 2015; 313 (11): 1143-1153.

Population: 5k patients who are, according to the #’s, mostly white, over 65, with a high school or higher education, but with a smattering of other races and educational levels thrown in. Drawn from Harvard Vanguard, Kaiser Permanente of NoCA, and Henry Ford health systems.
Excluded: people with cancer or back surgery

Intervention: early back imaging < 6 weeks from “index visit”

Control: propensity-matched controls that did NOT undergo imaging

Outcome: Patient self-reported pain/function/depression at different intervals, mainly 3-, 6-, and 12-month intervals. Basically, 1300-1500 dollars more usage per patient in those who undergo early imaging. The short version is: early imaging largely results in same outcomes with more health care costs. Proportion of cancer diagnoses were not statistically different between the two groups!

Limitations of study: patient-reported data and a morass of CPT, ICD9, and RVU data pulled from medical records. How to account for osteoporotic patients?

Short version: you can safely avoid getting early (< 6 weeks) imaging in older folks who present with your basic back pain visit without worrying about “missing something.”

Why did this study matter? Most back pain literature is based on younger < 65 year old peeps.

Questions? Concerns? Comments?
-Danielle