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Guidelines for the use of diagnostic imaging in musculoskeletal (MSK) pain conditions affecting the lower back, knee and shoulder: a scoping review

Cuff, Andrew and Parton, Stephen and Tyer, Rob and Dikomitis, Lisa and Foster, Nadine and Littlewood, Christopher (2020) Guidelines for the use of diagnostic imaging in musculoskeletal (MSK) pain conditions affecting the lower back, knee and shoulder: a scoping review. Musculoskeletal Care. ISSN 1478-2189

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Abstract

Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is one of the most common reasons for primary care consultation, particularly pain in the lower back (LBP), knee, and shoulder. The use of diagnostic imaging for musculoskeletal pain is increasing but it is unclear whether this increase is justified based on clinical practice guideline (CPG) recommendations. Aim To identify and map the content of CPGs that inform the use of diagnostic imaging in those with non-traumatic LBP, knee, and shoulder pain in primary and intermediate care in the UK. Design and Setting A scoping review of CPGs. Methods This scoping review was conducted and is reported in accordance with PRISMA guidance. A broad search strategy included electronic searches of MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychINFO and SPORTDiscus from 2009 to the 17th April 2019. This was conducted alongside a search of guideline repositories and was combined with a snowball search of Google, relevant professional bodies and use of social media. Results 31 relevant CPGs were included. Routine use of diagnostic imaging for those with non-traumatic LBP, knee or shoulder pain is generally discouraged in primary care or intermediate care. Diagnostic imaging should be reserved for when specific or serious pathology is suspected or where the person is not responding to initial non-surgical management and the imaging result is expected to change clinical management decisions. Conclusion Diagnostic imaging should not be routinely requested in primary or intermediate care for non-traumatic LBP, knee, or shoulder pain. CPGs do not justify the increasing imaging rates in the UK for musculoskeletal pain.

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