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October 8, 2003

The Value of Diagnostic Tests for Low Back PainThe Value of Diagnostic Tests for Low Back Pain

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(14):1851-1853. doi:10.1001/jama.290.14.1851-a

To the Editor: Dr Jarvik and colleagues1 found that simple radiographs and rapid MRI yielded similar outcome for patients with back pain. Similarly, Kendrick et al2 previously reported that patients who had radiographs had outcomes similar to those of patients who had no imaging at all. Taken together, these 2 studies suggest that neither radiographs nor MRIs are useful as routine diagnostic procedures for back pain. Comparing one useless diagnostic procedure with a similarly useless one distracts from the fact that, in most cases of back pain, no imaging is best and least expensive.

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