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Influence of MRIs on Low Back and Leg Pain

This study compared the clinical features of low back and leg pain patients at the time of requesting a lumbar spine MRI to the subsequent pain management plan.

72 Patients were reffered for MRI. In 65 of the cases, leg pain emerged as the main symptom. 40 Patients showed no evidence of nerve compression, but in 28 patients nerve compression was evident. Interestingly, patients planned for surgery dropped from 48 to 30, while the conservative treatment plans rose 35% after the MRI. Overall, 50% of patients' diagnoses were altered after the MRI.

MRI is typically used in the medical setting to support surgical intervention, as the physician can pinpoint the area that is to be operated on. Ironically, this study found that the real effect of MRI is to move patients to the conservative treatment.

Rankine JJ, Gill KP, Hutchinson CE, Ross ER, Williamson JB. The therapeutic impact of lumbar spine MRI on patients with low back and leg pain. Clinical Radiology 1998;53(9):688-93.