The American Pain Society (APS) has issued a new clinical practice guideline for low back pain that emphasizes the use of noninvasive treatments over interventional procedures, as well as shared decision making between provider and patient. The findings are published in the May 1, 2009 issue of the journal Spine.
The new APS guideline, based on an extensive review of existing research, provides clinicians with eight recommendations to help determine the best way to treat patients with low-back pain. It also expands its current and previously published guideline for initial evaluation and management of this chronic condition.
“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.
“Unfortunately, randomized trials for a number of commonly used interventional procedures are still too limited to generate evidence-based recommendations, and our review also highlights the need for more research,” Chou added.
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.
“We have advocated strongly in many of our recommendations for physicians to use shared decision making because of the relatively close trade-offs between potential benefits relative to harms, as well as costs and burdens of these various treatment options,” Chou explained. Shared decision making involves a patient’s full participation in medical choices after receiving comprehensive information about the impact of all options on his or her particular life situation.
To develop the guideline, a multidisciplinary APS panel, augmented by experts on interventional therapies, reviewed 3,348 abstracts and analyzed 161 relevant clinical trials. The panel found that the evidence for the use of these interventions was mixed, sparse or not available. Based on the data the panel gathered, the APS now recommends:
Chou and his colleagues also reaffirm their previous recommendation that all low-back pain patients stay active and talk honestly with their physicians about self care and other interventions. “In general, noninvasive therapies supported by evidence showing benefits should be tried before considering interventional therapies or surgery,” said Chou.
Recommendations from the first APS Clinical Practice Guideline on Low-Back Pain are intended for primary care physicians and appeared in the Oct, 2, 2007, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. For diagnosis, the first APS low-back pain guideline advises clinicians to minimize routine use of X-rays or other diagnostic tests except for patients known or believed to have underlying neurological or spinal disorders
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