Background: Chiropractors have been shown to refer for lumbar radiography in clinical scenarios inconsistent with the current clinical guidelines for low back pain. It is unknown whether this is due to lack of adherence with known guidelines or a lack of awareness of relevant guidelines. Therefore, the aim of this study is to determine Australian chiropractors’ awareness of, and reported adherence to, radiographic guidelines for low back pain. Demographic, chiropractic practice and radiographic usage characteristics will be investigated for association with poor guideline adherence.
Methods: An online survey was distributed to Australian chiropractors from July to September, 2014. Survey questions assessed demographic, chiropractic practice and radiographic usage characteristics, awareness of radiographic guidelines for low back pain and the level of agreement with current guidelines. Results were analysed with descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis.
Results: There were 480 surveys completed online. Only 49.6 % (95 % confidence interval (95 % CI): 44.9, 54.4) reported awareness of radiographic guidelines for low back pain. Chiropractors reported a likelihood of referring for radiographs for low back pain: in new patients (47.6 % (95 % CI: 42.9, 52.3)); to confirm biomechanical pathologies (69.0 % (95 % CI: 64.5, 73.1)); to perform biomechanical analysis (37.5 % (95 % CI: 33.1, 42.0)); or to screen for contraindications (39.4 % (95 % CI: 35.0, 44.0)). Chiropractors agreed that radiographs for low back pain could be useful for: acute low back pain (54.0 % (95 % CI: 49.2, 58.7)); screening for contraindications (55.8 % (95 % CI: 51.0, 60.5)); or to confirm diagnosis and direct treatment (61.3 % (95 % CI: 56.5, 65.9)). Poorer adherence to current guidelines was seen if the chiropractor referred to in-house radiographic facilities, practiced a technique other than diversified technique or was unaware or unsure of current radiographic guidelines for low back pain.
Conclusion: Only 50 % of Australian chiropractors report awareness of current radiographic guidelines for low back pain. A poorer awareness of guidelines is associated with an increase in the reported likelihood of use, and the perceived usefulness of radiographs for low back pain, in clinical situations that fall outside of current guidelines. Therefore, education strategies may help to increase guideline knowledge and compliance.
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