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MRIs - The Positives and the False Positives

Tests – what are they good for?

When it comes to back pain tests, of MRIs that question must be questioned. What are MRIs good for when the percentage of constructive, influential MRI studies is so minor? False positive MRI results distress those who get these results. They inspire fear or caution where it’s not always warranted. MRIs like this confuse the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture carefully weighs the need for MRI in the Peoria chiropractic treatment plan of Peoria back pain relief.


Interpretations of MRI images by radiologists often vary.  The true-positive finding rate was 56.4%, and the miss-rate was 43.6%. (1) MRI imaging may trigger false suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were proper. Of those, only 13% uncovered anything suspicious. Of the 36 MRIs that caused suspicion of cancer or infection, 81% were false-positive. 59% of the follow-up MRIs on those suspicious findings were false positives. (2) MRI imaging may misinform. For example, MRI shows that the appearance of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – grows with age:  37% in 20 year olds and 96% in 80 year olds; disc bulges: 30% to 84%; disc protrusion: 29% to 43%; annular fissures 19% to 29%. These imaging findings imply that these are signs of normal aging. They remind all doctors, remind chiropractors like yours at Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture, to correlate all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Peoria chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors suggest30 not repeating spinal imaging and not getting spinal imaging for patients with acute low back pain in the first 6 weeks of back pain (except when “red flags” are present– issues that indicate something more worrisome). (4) A review of the efficacy of the Canadian Choosing Wisely recommendations for imaging nonspecific spinal pain and symptoms stated that there is very low risk of missing a worrying cause of back pain. (5) The purpose of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture wants what is best for our Peoria chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture review all the symptoms, tests and images our Peoria chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Peoria chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture with MRI images already done. Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture will study them but will depend more on clinical exam findings and correlate them to what the MRI shows. A rule of thumb with the Cox Technic System of Back Pain Relief is to work toward 50% decrease of back pain in the first 30 days of care before ordering more imaging or testing or referring for surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture

Listen to this PODCAST with Dr. Dan Clark on the Back Doctor’s Podcast with Dr. Michael Johnson as he explains the role of imaging for back pain in the program of treatment for pain relief.

Schedule your Peoria chiropractic appointment with Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture today. Let’s explore together the best path to Peoria back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Carter Chiropractic & Acupuncture carefully decides when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Peoria chiropractic treatment plan.  
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