Over-ordering of scans revealed

The survey, drawing on more than 980,000 patient encounters with 9802 Australian GPs between 2002–03 and 2011–12 saw a 45% rise in diagnostic imaging tests ordered by GPs. 

Dr Helena Britt from the University of Sydney and the lead author of the Evaluation of Imaging Ordering by General Practitioners in Australia report said the rise was driven by a combination of increasing GP visits, an increasing number of problems managed at consultations and a higher likelihood that GPs would order imaging tests for these problems.

Orders for imaging for back problems, both new and existing, comprised about 6% of all imaging ordered. However, the report also showed that in 30% of new presentations for back pain, the GPs ordered an x-ray or CT scan.

This is contrary to guidelines that recommend a ‘watch and wait’ approach unless the back pain is accompanied by other red flag symptoms such as major trauma, unexplained weight loss,