Low Back Pain Imaging
What are we tracking and why?
We track the percentage of adults 18-50 years of age with a primary diagnosis of low back pain who did not have an imaging study within 28 days of the diagnosis.
For the majority of individuals who experience severe low back pain, the pain often improves on its own within a few weeks. Among these patients, there is no clinical necessity to undergo radiological imaging such as traditional x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Avoiding these imaging exams can prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation and reduce health care costs.
How are we doing?
What are we doing to improve?
We educate our healthcare providers on this metric so they can better inform their patients as to their options. We also plan to include physical therapy in our Primary Care Medical Home (PCMH) so it is more readily available as a treatment option for patients dealing with pain.
What can you do?
Trust your doctor. Refrain from requesting a radiological exam when your doctor has already explained that it is not necessary. However, a radiological exam may be recommended when your doctor believes that the benefits outweigh the risk of radiation exposure.
If you are referred for a radiological imaging exam, always ask:
- Why do I need this exam?
- How will this exam improve my health care?
- Is there an equally effective alternative that does not use radiation?
Keep a record of your radiological imaging exams (x-ray, fluoroscopy, CT, mammography), and be ready to share this record with your doctor. By sharing this information, you can be a part of the decision to proceed, or not proceed, with a medical imaging examination.
If you are a female, be sure to tell your doctor if you are, or might be pregnant before any radiological imaging examination.
If you are experiencing low back pain, and are unsure about what to do, please contact your Primary Care Medical Home, or contact the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273), option 1, if calling after hours.