Back Pain Sufferers May Want to Skip the MRI

physical therapist, physical therapy, back pain, spine pain, back health, spine health, posture, spine surgery, back surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery, physical therapy consultationU.S. researchers are claiming that patients who receive steroid injections for back pain may not need the significantly expensive MRI scan before treatment.

Steroid injects are one of the most common treatments for serious back pain, but at around $1,500 they may be an unnecessary cost in cash-strapped economic times.

This study, which comes from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests that skipping an MRI doesn’t harm a patient’s outcomes but can save them significant loss of time and money. Research on these tests is particularly timely, as many doctors have been criticized for ordering what experts consider “unnecessary” imaging tests, adding to the U.S. health care bill.

For this research Dr. Steven Cohen, the study leader, and his colleagues studied 132 patients with sciatica, a common back problem due to pinched nerves.  Doctors often treat the condition by injecting the long-acting steroid cortisone around the spinal cord. All of the patients got an MRI before, but doctors didn’t look at the test results before treatment in half of the patients. Instead, they gave the injections based on their physical exam of the patients. In the second group, doctors based their treatment on a physical exam and used the MRI to help decide where to place the needle.  Three months later, there was no difference between the groups.

Treating spine problems in the United States costs Americans about $85.9 billion a year, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  The study suggests that imaging tests are a key driver in the cost of treating back pain.

Suffering from back pain? Contact an orthopaedic specialist directly to see what treatment options are available!

Source: “Some Back Pain Patients Can Skip the MRI”

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