Use of Imaging Studies for Low Back Pain (LBP)

Assesses adults 18–50 with a primary diagnosis of low back pain who did not have an imaging study (plain X-ray, MRI or CT scan) within 28 days of the diagnosis (a higher score indicates better performance).

Why It Matters

Approximately 2.5 million Americans visit outpatient clinical settings for low back pain each year. Approximately 75% of adults will experience low back pain at some time in their lives. In any three-month period, approximately 25% of Americans will experience at least one day of back pain.

Evidence shows that unnecessary or routine imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scans) for low back pain is not associated with improved outcomes. It also exposes patients to unnecessary harms such as radiation and further unnecessary treatment. For the majority of individuals who experience severe low back pain, pain improves within the first two weeks of onset.
Avoiding imaging for patients when there is no indication of an underlying condition can prevent unnecessary harm and unintended consequences to patients and can reduce health care costs.

Results

IMAGING STUDIES FOR LOW BACK PAIN
Commercial Medicaid Medicare
Year HMO PPO HMO HMO PPO
2016 73.8 74.3 70.5 - -
2015 75.4 74.9 73.6 - -
2014 75.4 74.9 75.1 - -
2013 75.2 74.5 75.5 - -
2012 75.3 74.2 75.6 - -
2011 74.4 73.7 75.8 - -
2010 74.2 73.3 75.5 - -
2009 73.9 72.7 76.1 - -
2008 73.1 72.3 75.7 - -
2007 74.6 73.3 77.3 - -
2006 73.9 72.1 78.3 - -
2005 75.4 72.6 79.0 - -
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