Spine surgeons’ requirements for imaging at the time of referral: a survey of Canadian spine surgeons
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BACKGROUND: Routine imaging of patients with spine-related complaints referred for surgical assessment may represent an inefficient use of technological resources. Our objective was to explore Canadian spine surgeons' requirements with respect to imaging studies accompanying spine-related referrals. METHODS: We administered an 8-item survey to all 100 actively practising surgeon members of the Canadian Spine Society that inquired about demographic variables and imaging requirements for patients referred with spine-related complaints. RESULTS: Fifty-five spine surgeons completed our survey, for a response rate of 55%. Most respondents (43; 78%) required imaging studies to accompany all spine-related referrals. The type of imaging required was highly variable, with respondents endorsing 7 different combinations. Half (47%) required magnetic resonance imaging and 38% required plain radiographs either alone or in combination with other forms of imaging. Half of the respondents refused to see 20% or more of all patients referred for spine-related complaints. CONCLUSION: Most Canadian spine surgeons require imaging studies to accompany spine-related referrals; however, the type and combination of studies is highly variable, and many patients who are referred are never seen (for a consultation). Standardization and optimization of imaging practices for patients with spine-related complaints referred for surgical assessment may be an important area for cost savings.
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