BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 Jun 8;23(1):554. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-05462-y.
BACKGROUND: Lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (LMRI) is often performed early in the course of care, which can be discordant with guidelines for non-serious low back pain. Our primary hypothesis was that adults receiving chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy (CSMT) for incident radicular low back pain (rLBP) would have reduced odds of early LMRI over 6-weeks’ follow-up compared to those receiving other care (a range of medical care, excluding CSMT). As a secondary hypothesis, CSMT recipients were also expected to have reduced odds of LMRI over 6-months’ and 1-years’ follow-up.
METHODS: A national 84-million-patient health records database including large academic healthcare organizations (TriNetX) was queried for adults age 20-70 with rLBP newly-diagnosed between January 31, 2012 and January 31, 2022. Receipt or non-receipt of CSMT determined cohort allocation. Patients with prior lumbar imaging and serious pathology within 90 days of diagnosis were excluded. Propensity score matching controlled for variables associated with LMRI utilization (e.g., demographics). Odds ratios (ORs) of LMRI over 6-weeks’, 6-months’, and 1-years’ follow-up after rLBP diagnosis were calculated.
RESULTS: After matching, there were 12,353 patients per cohort (mean age 50 years, 56% female), with a small but statistically significant reduction in odds of early LMRI in the CSMT compared to other care cohort over 6-weeks’ follow-up (9%, 10%, OR [95% CI] 0.88 [0.81-0.96] P = 0.0046). There was a small but statistically significant increase in odds of LMRI among patients in the CSMT relative to the other care cohort over 6-months’ (12%, 11%, OR [95% CI] 1.10 [1.02-1.19], P < 0.0174) and 1-years’ follow-up (14%, 12%, OR [95% CI] 1.21 [1.13-1.31], P < 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that patients receiving CSMT for newly-diagnosed rLBP are less likely to receive early LMRI than patients receiving other care. However, CSMT recipients have a small increase in odds of LMRI over the long-term. Both cohorts in this study had a relatively low rate of early LMRI, possibly because the data were derived from academic healthcare organizations. The relationship of these findings to other patient care outcomes and cost should be explored in a future randomized controlled trial.
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