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    Low Back Pain Is Common Cause of ER Visits

    Opioid administration, a frequent treatment, is consistent with guideline recommendations

    WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Low back pain-related disorders are a frequent cause of visits to the emergency department, and though opioids are administered or prescribed to most patients, use of therapeutic agents generally conforms with guideline recommendations, according to research published in the Nov. 15 issue of Spine.

    Benjamin W. Friedman, M.D., of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual survey of nationally representative emergency department visits in the United States, from 2002 to 2006.

    The researchers determined that low back pain-related disorders accounted for 2.63 million annual visits to the emergency department, representing 2.3 percent of all visits to U.S. emergency departments. Some type of diagnostic testing was performed in 45.1 percent of patients with low back pain; 30.5 percent had a plain radiograph and 9.6 percent had computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging in 2006, compared to only 3.2 percent in 2002. Opioids were given to 61.0 percent of patients, with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs given to 49.9 percent and muscle relaxants to 43.1 percent. The authors note that use of therapeutic agents was generally in line with guideline recommendations.

    "These data speak to the need for clinical trials that address relevant questions of combination therapy for acute low back pain," the authors write.

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