Early CT scans for low back pain lead to $20k more in Medicare expenditures, study finds


Low back pain patients who receive an early MRI scan accrued $2,500 more in Medicare expenditures than more conservatively managed patients, according to a study in The American Journal of Managed Care.

Here are three things to know:

1. Study authors used a 5 percent sample of Medicare fee-for-service enrollees between 2006 and 2010 to determine annual costs after an idiopathic LBP diagnosis. Researchers assessed care costs and patient outcomes according to whether or not the patients had been referred for early imaging.

2. Patients who received a CT scan accrued $19,900 more in Medicare expenditures than conservatively managed patients.

3. Early imaging was associated with greater long-term costs. Study authors concluded by recommending providers manage recently diagnosed LBP according to clinical guidelines.


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