Background. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as initial imaging for back pain has increased in general practice. However, few data are available on the characteristics of these referred patients. The objective of this study was to describe the baseline characteristics and MRI findings of patients presenting for a lumbar MRI examination as referred by their GP. Methods. Patients presenting for a lumbar MRI examination as referred by their GP were recruited at the MRI Center. The MRI radiology reports were scored for the presence of disc bulging, disc herniation, nerve root compression, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis and serious pathologies. Information on patients' characteristics, characteristics of the complaints and red flags were derived from questionnaires. Cross-sectional differences between patients with and without specific MRI findings were analyzed. Results. A total of 683 low back pain (LBP) patients were included; mean age was 49.9 (range 19-80) years and 53% was male. Mean back pain severity score was 6.6 (SD 2.0) and 67% of the patients reported having chronic LBP. In total, 374 patients (55%) reported sciatica complaints for at least 6 weeks. Of all MRI reports, 69% mentioned signs of nerve root compression. Serious pathologies were reported in 3% of the patients. In total, 94% of patients had abnormal MRI findings. Conclusions. Almost all patients presenting for a lumbar MRI examination as referred by their GP had abnormal MRI findings. In total, 55% of the patients reported persistent sciatica in which imaging is recommended according to international guidelines.

Back pain, Musculoskeletal/connective tissue disorders, Pain, Primary care, Radiology,
Family Practice: an international journal
Department of Radiology

de Schepper, E.I.T, Koes, B.W, Veldhuizen, E.F.H, Oei, E.H.G, Bierma-Zeinstra, S.M, & Luijsterburg, P.A.J. (2016). Prevalence of spinal pathology in patients presenting for lumbar MRI as referred from general practice. Family Practice: an international journal, 33(1), 51–56. doi:10.1093/fampra/cmv097