The lumbosacral radiographs in the initial screening of low back pain – Is one view enough?

  • OM Atalabi
  • SO Ogunlade
  • AM Agunloye
Keywords: Antero-posterior radiograph, lateral plain radiograph, low back pain


Background: Radiological imaging is mandatory, when investigating patients with low back pain (LBP). A minimum of three plain radiographic views of lumbosacral spine are routinely requested for by the attending clinicians.
Objective: This study is therefore carried out to determine if only one view will be sufficient in the initial screening of patients with low back pain.
Materials and Methods: The antero-posterior (AP) and lateral plain radiographs of patients referred to the radiology department on account of low back pains in an eighteen month period (June 2007 to November 2008) were reported by two certified radiologists. The findings were subjected to statistical analysis. The Kappa agreement for the two independent reports was between 0.602 and 0.908.
Results: The radiographs for 638 patients were reviewed. 365 (57.2%) were females and 273 (42.8%) were males. The age ranged from 20 years to 85 years with a mean of 56.4 years. Within the age group of 20-69 years, females were found to significantly present earlier than men with LBP (P< 0.041). The AP view had a significantly higher rate of reported normal findings that the lateral view (P<0.000). Osteophytic outgrowth was the commonest finding in both views although the rate of detection was higher on the lateral view, as with the other abnormal findings.
Conclusion: This study shows that the lateral radiographs show significantly more findings than AP on plain radiographs. It is therefore recommended that lateral radiograph is adequate in the initial screening of patients with low back pain.

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eISSN: 1119-3077