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Clin Radiol. 2003 Aug;58(8):606-9.

The diagnostic contribution of the frontal lumbar spine radiograph in community referred low back pain--a prospective study of 1030 patients.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, St George's Hospital, London, UK.



The diagnostic contribution of the anteroposterior (AP) view was studied to assess whether this view could be omitted safely, thus reducing the radiation burden received by patients undergoing lumbar spine radiography.


Prospective analysis of 1030 consecutive referrals for lumbar spine radiography from general practice.


In the majority of cases (90.5%) the AP view was non-contributory. In 4.2% the diagnosis was strengthened and it was altered in 4.6%. However, in the latter group only 1.3% of the total were considered significant alterations. These were cases of possible, but not definite, pars defects and sacroiliitis. Specific important conditions such as infection, malignancy and benign tumours were not missed on the lateral view alone, in our study population. The radiation burden is reduced by 75% by omitting the AP view.


A single lateral view is an adequate examination, with the proviso that sacroiliac joint disease is not assessed on this view and some pars defects and facet joint degenerative changes may be overlooked. The radiation protection gains are considerable. A single lateral lumbar view is now our routine practice unless sacroiliitis is a specific clinical concern.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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