Lumbar disorders: diagnostic imaging in low back pain
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Lumbar disorders - clinicians guide to using diagnostic imaging in low back pain - current recommendations
Current guidelines for low back pain recommend against routine use of plain x-rays (XR) or other imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerised tomography (CT) in the absence of red flags in non-specific low back pain (LBP) of less than 12 weeks duration.
It is advised to avoid unnecessary spinal imaging when:
It is advised that imaging studies be performed to evaluate LBP when:
MRI is widely considered to be the best test for most patients with lumbar disorders who require advanced imaging, although CT scan gives better definition of bony structures. Consideration needs to be given to costs, risks and contraindications.
Patients with no red flags in their history or other clear indication for imaging should be advised that: