MRI Scans of the Lumbar Spine often Inappropriately Ordered, Not Scans of the Head

March 27, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the lumbar spine are often inappropriately ordered for patients, concludes a research letter published online March 25, 2013, in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers prospectively identified outpatient requisitions for MRI scans of the lumbar spine and of the head (related to headache) at two Canadian hospitals between 2008 and 2010 to determine their appropriateness. Data indicated that only 44% of requests for MRI scans of the lumbar spine were considered appropriate. The remainder were ether determined to be inappropriate (29%) or of uncertain value (27%). When compared with other specialties, family physicians had a lower rate of appropriate MRI ordering for the lower back than other specialties. Only 34% of their MRI scans were considered appropriate, as compared with 58% of those ordered by other specialties.

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