A report from the Health Technology Assessment programme shows that routine early x-ray examinations for low back pain are expensive and confer little benefit.

The small trial of 153 patients from 94 GP practices in London showed few significant differences in physical outcome, further consultation rates or referrals to other health professionals at either six weeks or one year between those with and without x-rays.

Although guidelines from the Royal College of Radiologists recommend that GPs wait 6-8 weeks before referring patients for x-rays and then only if symptoms have not improved it is estimated that about half the referrals for radiography do not conform to these guidelines (BMJ, 2000; 321: 1489).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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