A systematic review completed by the NIH Collaboratory’s Lumbar Imaging with Reporting of Epidemiology (LIRE) Demonstration Project is among the top 5% of research articles garnering attention online, according to Altmetrics. The article, “Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations,” was published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology in 2014.
In the systematic review, the researchers found that imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals, and these findings increase with age. Thus, many degenerative features found on spine imaging are likely part of normal aging. Given that advanced imaging is increasingly used in the evaluation of patients with lower back pain, knowing the prevalence of degenerative findings in asymptomatic individuals can help clinicians and patients when interpreting imaging findings.
The LIRE pragmatic trial is testing the insertion of these epidemiologic benchmarks into lumbar spine imaging reports with the goal of reducing subsequent tests and treatments, including MRI and CT, opioid prescriptions, spinal injections, or surgery.
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