I am fully aware that APTEI Report readers have heard me rant on this issue many times, but I cannot ignore this 2017 paper on the topic of MRIs.
In 2006, volunteers with a history of LBP, but without current LBP with a mean age of 45 received an MRI.
Ten years later, in 2016, all volunteers were once again invited for a follow-up MRI. The volunteers where enquired whether they had had any LBP during the past 10 years. Some reported of significant LBP episodes, while other reported of no LBP incidences.
Meanwhile the radiologists evaluated the presence and the progression of disc degeneration, disc bulging, high intensity zone (HIZ), spondylolisthesis, and Modic (pathological) changes in the MRIs.
Result #1: Follow-up MRI findings of DDD, disc bulging, HIZ, spondylolisthesis, and any type of Modic changes were not associated with LBP history during the 10 years between the baseline and follow-up study.
Result #2: The progression of these findings were also not associated with the LBP history.
Conclusion: The baseline MRI findings cannot predict future LBP. Progressive changes in MRI findings are also useless for predicting LBP.
Reference: Tonosu J et al The associations between magnetic resonance imaging findings and low back pain: A 10-year longitudinal analysis. PLoS One. 2017 Nov 15;12(11):e0188057.
Feel free to print the (Victim of Medical Imaging Technology) VOMIT poster yourself from www.aptei.ca under “Pain Education”. It is now translated into 7 languages. You may order the VOMIT poster for $20 if you do not yet have one at your clinic. The poster can save some patients years of fear and disability.