5 points on MRI variation for workers' compensation back pain patients

Laura Dyrda -  

A new study published in Spine examines the geographic variation in the early MRI for acute work-related low back pain.

The researchers examined acute, disabling low back cases between the beginning of 2002 and end of 2007 from a large workers' compensation data source. The researchers identified patients who received MRI within 30 days of onset as well as pain severity and concurrent injuries or diseases. The researchers found:


1. The rate of early MRI scanning varied from 6 percent to 58.4 percent across the country.


2. The 12 selected most extreme states reported non-hospital MRI sites and lower state median income were associated with high early-MRI rates which explain 84 percent of between state variations.


3. The inter-state difference in MRI rates was greatest in the lower-severity cases.


4. The higher severity diagnosis was more common in the high utilization states.


5. The researchers recommended efforts to address inappropriate referral patterns "based on private MRI facility ownership." They also recommended improved quality of communication with low-income patients.


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