The latest from the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training

Lumbar Spine Imaging in New Brunswick: The ‘Back Story’

Author: NB-IRDT Staff

Posted on Feb 9, 2022

Category: Media , Health


Back pain can be a fairly prevalent, debilitating, and painful problem – especially as we get older! But how often does it warrant an x-ray, or other type of imaging?

In 2014, Choosing Wisely Canada was launched to help reduce unnecessary tests and treatments in  many areas of healthcare. When it comes to lower back pain, Choosing Wisely only recommends imaging if “red flags” are present. These conditions that warrant diagnostic imaging can include metastatic cancer, nerve conditions affecting bowel and bladder function, weakness, fracture, infection, and similar concerns.

 In 2020, New Brunswick had the highest number of average CT scans per 1,000 population in all of Canada. However, without a breakdown of the lumbar imaging performed in NB, there is no way to know how many tests in our province were unnecessary.

In a recent report, researchers at NB-IRDT address this issue by investigating the rates of diagnostic imaging performed for “red flag” conditions compared to the overall number of tests. They look at overall trends in spine imaging and identify regions and groups experiencing the highest number of tests.

Curious what they found? You can read the newly released report for a full breakdown of results.

Related Pages: Choosing wisely: Imaging for lower back pain



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