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June 4, 2003

MRI for Regional Back PainNeed for Less Imaging, Better Understanding

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Departments of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

JAMA. 2003;289(21):2863-2865. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2863

In this issue of THE JOURNAL, Jarvik and colleagues1 detail the benefits and costs that accrued when rapid MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was substituted for the more traditional radiographs physicians have used when evaluating patients with regional back pain. Rapid MRI is an adaptation of standard MRI, but provides adequate images more rapidly and at considerably less cost. The study shows that substituting rapid MRI neither saved money nor led to improved clinical outcomes. Rather, the data suggest that substituting rapid MRI increases cost in part because it predisposes patients to undergo surgical intervention.

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