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Early Tests May Not Aid Elders' Back Pain

Early imaging tests don't help older adults with new back pain feel better any faster, a new study finds. But the tests do lead to higher costs. The study included 5,200 people over age 65. All of them went to see doctors for new pain in the lower back. More than 1,500 of them received an X-ray, CT scan, MRI or other imaging within 6 weeks of the first doctor's visit. Everyone in the study filled out questionnaires about back pain and their overall function. Results were similar for people who did and did not get the early imaging tests. Researchers also reviewed medical records to see what back-related services people got in the year after their doctor's visit. Costs were an average of $1,400 higher for those who got the early tests. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it March 17.

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