American Pain Society Issues New Guidelines for Low-Back Pain Interventions, Surgery

American Pain Society Issues New Guidelines for Low-Back Pain Interventions, Surgery

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | May 13, 2009
Low-back pain
is the fifth most
common reason for
doctor visits and
accounts for more than
$26 billion in direct
health care costs
nationwide each year
The American Pain Society (APS) has issued new clinical practice guidelines for low back pain that emphasize the use of noninvasive treatments over interventional procedures and shared decision making between provider and patient.

The findings are published in the current (May 1, 2009) issue of the journal Spine.

"These recommendations are based on an even more complete body of evidence than was available just a few years ago. Consequently, we believe these recommendations will give physicians more confidence when treating patients with persistent back pain," said Roger Chou, M.D., lead author, director of the APS Clinical Practice Guideline Program, and associate professor of medicine (general internal medicine), Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Oregon Health & Science University.

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Low-back pain is the fifth most common reason for doctor's visits and accounts for more than $26 billion in direct health care costs nationwide each year. While a number of interventional diagnostic tests and therapies and surgery are available, and their use is increasing, in some cases their usefulness remains uncertain, Chou says.

To develop the guidelines, researchers reviewed 3,348 abstracts and analyzed 161 relevant clinical trials. Based on the data the panel gathered, the APS now recommends:

1. Against the use of provocative discography (injection of fluid into the disc in order to determine if it is the source of back pain) for patients with chronic nonradicular low-back pain.

2. The consideration of intensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation with a cognitive/behavioral emphasis for patients with nonradicular low-back pain who do not respond to usual, non-interdisciplinary therapies.

3. Against facet joint corticosteroid injection, prolotherapy, and intradiscal corticosteroid injections for patients with persistent nonradicular low-back pain, and insufficient evidence to guide use of other interventional therapies.

4. A discussion of risks and benefits of surgery and the use of shared decision making with reference to rehabilitation as a similarly effective option for patients with nonradicular low-back pain, common degenerative spinal changes, and persistent and disabling symptoms.

5. Insufficient evidence to guide recommendations for vertebral disc replacement.

6. A discussion of the risks and benefits of epidural steroid injections and shared decision making, including specific review of evidence of lack of long-term benefit for patients with persistent radiculopathy due to herniated lumbar disc.