Factors Associated with Early MRI Utilization for Acute Occupational Low Back Pain: A Population-Based Study from Washington State Workers’ Compensation

Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.
Spine (Impact Factor: 2.3). 10/2011; 37(19):1708-18. DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31823a03cc
Source: PubMed


A population-based, prospective cohort study.
To identify demographic, job-related, psychosocial, and clinical factors associated with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) within 6 weeks from injury (early MRI) among workers' compensation claimants with acute occupational low back pain (LBP).
Early MRI may be associated with increased use of services for treatment and costs. To understand utilization and most appropriately apply guidelines, it is important to identify factors associated with early imaging use for occupational LBP.
Workers (N = 1830) were interviewed 3 weeks (median) after submitting a workers' compensation claim for a back injury. Demographic, work, health, clinical, and injury characteristics were ascertained from interviews, medical records, and administrative data. Modified Poisson regression analyses identified factors associated with early MRI use.
Among respondents, 362 (19.8%) received an early MRI. Multivariable regression showed that male workers were 43% more likely to receive an early MRI than female workers (incident rate ratio [IRR]: 1.43, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.12-1.82). Initial visit type with a surgeon was associated with 78% greater likelihood of receiving an early MRI than that with a primary care physician (IRR: 1.78, 95% CI: 1.08-2.92). Having a chiropractor as the initial provider was associated with a reduced likelihood of early MRI (IRR: 0.53, 95% CI: 0.42-0.66). Workers with elevated work fear-avoidance, higher Roland scores, or increased injury severity were more likely to receive early MRI than counterparts with lower levels or scores.
Nearly 20% of the injured workers with LBP receive early MRI, a rate similar to that reported elsewhere. Early MRI may lead to greater subsequent interventions, potentially poorer outcomes, and increased health care expenditures. On the basis of the characteristics of patients with uncomplicated occupational LBP, providers may be able to provide tailored care, and providers and policy makers may better understand the utilization of imaging and adherence to clinical guidelines.

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    • "Prior studies suggest that approximately 15%–30% of back pain patients will have early imaging of the lumbar spine [46]. Given a registry size of 5,000 subjects, we expect 750–1,500 patients in the BOLD registry will have early imaging and comprise cases for the observational matched cohort study. "
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    ABSTRACT: Back pain is one of the most important causes of functional limitation, disability, and utilization of health care resources for adults of all ages, but especially among older adults. Despite the high prevalence of back pain in this population, important questions remain unanswered regarding the comparative effectiveness of commonly used diagnostic tests and treatments in the elderly. The overall goal of the Back pain Outcomes using Longitudinal Data (BOLD) project is to establish a rich, sustainable registry to describe the natural history and evaluate prospectively the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of interventions for patients 65 and older with back pain. BOLD is enrolling 5,000 patients ≥ 65 years old who present to a primary care physician with a new episode of back pain. We are recruiting study participants from three integrated health systems (Kaiser-Permanente Northern California, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates/ Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston). Registry patients complete validated, standardized measures of pain, back pain-related disability, and health-related quality of life at enrollment and 3, 6 and 12 months later. We also have available for analysis the clinical and administrative data in the participating health systems' electronic medical records. Using registry data, we will conduct an observational cohort study of early imaging compared to no early imaging among patients with new episodes of back pain. The aims are to: 1) identify predictors of early imaging and; 2) compare pain, functional outcomes, diagnostic testing and treatment utilization of patients who receive early imaging versus patients who do not receive early imaging. In terms of predictors, we will examine patient factors as well as physician factors. By establishing the BOLD registry, we are creating a resource that contains patient-reported outcome measures as well as electronic medical record data for elderly patients with back pain. The richness of our data will allow better matching for comparative effectiveness studies than is currently possible with existing datasets. BOLD will enrich the existing knowledge base regarding back pain in the elderly to help clinicians and patients make informed, evidence-based decisions regarding their care.
    BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 05/2012; 13(1):64. DOI:10.1186/1471-2474-13-64 · 1.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A population-based, prospective cohort study. To evaluate the association of early imaging and health and disability status 1 year following acute low back injury, among a population-based sample of Washington State workers' compensation claimants. Use of early diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for low back pain (LBP) contributes to increasing health care costs but may not lead to better outcomes than delayed imaging. In the worker's compensation system, LBP is common and costly. This research examines the association between early MRI among workers with LBP and health outcomes (pain intensity, Roland disability score, and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey scores) and disability status 1 year after injury. This nonrandomized prospective cohort study of Washington State workers' compensation claimants with nonspecific LBP used administrative claims and interview data. Multivariable regression methods were used to estimate change in health outcome scores, the relative risk of disability at 1 year, and the rate of recovery 1 year after injury. Of 1226 participants, 18.6% received early MRI. Most (77.9%) had mild/major sprains and 22.1% had radiculopathy. Participants with early MRI differed significantly at baseline in pain, function, and psychosocial variables. After adjusting for covariates, early imaging was not associated with substantial differences in 1-year health outcomes for sprains or radiculopathy. For workers with mild/major sprain, early imaging was associated with a 2-fold increase in the likelihood of work disability benefits at 1 year (adjusted relative risk: 2.03, 95% confidence interval: 1.33-3.11). Early imaging was not associated with an increased risk of long-term disability for workers with radiculopathy (adjusted relative risk: 1.31, 95% confidence interval: 0.84-2.05). For both groups, early MRI was associated with longer disability duration (P < 0.001). Among workers with LBP, early MRI is not associated with better health outcomes and is associated with increased likelihood of disability and its duration. These associations warrant further testing in a randomized controlled trial. Our findings suggest that adherence to evidence-based guidelines is an important factor in ensuring that workers receive the highest quality care for occupational injuries.
    Spine 03/2012; 37(18):1617-27. DOI:10.1097/BRS.0b013e318251887b · 2.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Study Design. Prospective population-based cohort studyObjective. To identify early predictors of lumbar spine surgery within 3 years after occupational back injurySummary of Background Data. Back injuries are the most prevalent occupational injury in the United States. Few prospective studies have examined early predictors of spine surgery after work-related back injury.Methods. Using Disability Risk Identification Study Cohort (D-RISC) data, we examined the early predictors of lumbar spine surgery within 3 years among Washington State workers with new worker's compensation temporary total disability claims for back injuries. Baseline measures included worker-reported measures obtained approximately 3 weeks after claim submission. We used medical bill data to determine whether participants underwent surgery, covered by the claim, within 3 years. Baseline predictors (P < 0.10) of surgery in bivariate analyses were included in a multivariate logistic regression model predicting lumbar spine surgery. The model's area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was used to determine the model's ability to identify correctly workers who underwent surgery.Results. In the D-RISC sample of 1,885 workers, 174 (9.2%) had a lumbar spine surgery within 3 years. Baseline variables associated with surgery (P < 0.05) in the multivariate model included higher Roland Disability Questionnaire scores, greater injury severity, and surgeon as first provider seen for the injury. Reduced odds of surgery were observed for those under age 35, women, Hispanics, and those whose first provider was a chiropractor. 42.7% of workers who first saw a surgeon had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor. The multivariate model's AUC was 0.93 (95% CI 0.92-0.95), indicating excellent ability to discriminate between workers who would versus would not have surgery.Conclusion. Baseline variables in multiple domains predicted lumbar spine surgery. There was a very strong association between surgery and first provider seen for the injury, even after adjustment for other important variables.
    Spine 12/2012; 38(11). DOI:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182814ed5 · 2.30 Impact Factor
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