Design and setting: Spinal pain syndrome patients attended the specialized Multidisciplinary Spinal Pain Unit at Townsville General Hospital and the Kirwan Community Health Centre (Queensland, Australia) for diagnosis and management (ie, chiropractic spinal manipulation, medication, or needle acupuncture). A patient satisfaction questionnaire was sent to a random sample of patients in this Queensland Government funded service that was approved by the health authority's Ethics Committee.
RESULTS: A total of 1775 new patients (949 men, 826 women; aged 10 to 91 years; average age = 43 years) visited the unit. Medical referral accounted for 40% of patients, chiropractic for 2%, osteopathy for 1%, and other referrals for 0.7%; 40.3% were self-referred and 16% were specifically referred for a medicolegal consultation and examination following work-related or motor vehicle accident injuries. Thirty-nine patients (2.2%) were found to have acute pain (< 28 days). Of 941 patients who could accurately recall when symptoms first began, 69 (7.3%) presented with subacute pain (4 to 12 weeks duration), and 872 (92.7%) presented with chronic spinal pain syndrome (>12 weeks duration). Following extensive investigations, 1474 patients (83%) had radiologically identifiable abnormalities, including osseous or soft tissue anomalies. There was only 1 significant complication (pneumothorax) out of 7831 acupuncture treatment sessions, representing 0.01% of patients and 0.006% of a total of 16,936 examinations and treatments administered at the unit. The patient satisfaction questionnaire resulted in an extremely high satisfaction score.
CONCLUSION: A public hospital or community health center based specialized spinal pain syndrome unit is useful for referring clinicians who wish to obtain a further opinion for challenging spinal pain syndrome patients in the lower socioeconomic group that cannot afford private health care.
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