Diagnosis Prognosis

Thursday, March 21, 2013

In spring 2012, the Choosing Wisely campaign asked nine physician organizations to create a list of commonly utilized tests or procedures that may often be unnecessary. A common response among general practitioners? Imaging for low back pain.

An initiative of the ABIM Foundation, the Choosing Wisely campaign seeks to promote quality, effective and evidence-based health care by facilitating discussion among physicians and patients.

When the campaign asked the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians to identify “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question,” both groups listed premature imaging for low back pain except when red flags are present.

Here's what the data says:

• LESS THAN 1% of radiographic imaging actually pinpoints the cause of low back pain.
Sources: National Committee for Quality Assurance

• The medical expense of low back pain in the United States is NEARLY $35 BILLION, much of which is attributed to imaging.
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

• Annually, 65 MILLION AMERICANS experience low back pain; however 90% of these cases resolve within eight weeks without intervention.
Source: American College of Rheumatology

• With an average COMMERCIAL AVERAGE of $1,080, magnetic resonance scanning and imaging fees tops those of countries such as France ($281), Germany ($599) and India ($138).
Source: International Federation of Health Plans