When should a patient with low back pain get an xray/MRI?

I love this question.  The research-tested answer is that routine imaging for patients with low pain is not warranted.  In fact, routine x-rays are associated with increased cost, poorer health in recipients, increased risk of surgery, and no reduction in patient anxiety.

Imaging is needed if there are “red flags.” If cancer is a possibility, inability to control bowel or bladder functioning, fever, or severe neurological deficits.

X-rays should be performed if trial of therapy hasn’t worked, ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory problem) is suspected,or older patients with risk factors for a spinal fracture.

MRI imaging should be limited to patients with nerve pain or symptoms of spinal stenosis–when symptoms do not respond to therapy.

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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