A Theoretical Model For The Development Of A Diagnosis-based Clinical Decision Rule For The Management Of Patients With Spinal Pain

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BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2007 (Aug 3); 8: 75 ~ FULL TEXT

Donald R Murphy and Eric L Hurwitz

Rhode Island Spine Center,
Pawtucket, RI, USA.

BACKGROUND:   Spinal pain is a common problem, and disability related to spinal pain has great consequence in terms of human suffering, medical costs and costs to society. The traditional approach to the non-surgical management of patients with spinal pain, as well as to research in spinal pain, has been such that the type of treatment any given patient receives is determined more by what type of practitioner he or she sees, rather than by diagnosis. Furthermore, determination of treatment depends more on the type of practitioner than by the needs of the patient. Much needed is an approach to clinical management and research that allows clinicians to base treatment decisions on a reliable and valid diagnostic strategy leading to treatment choices that result in demonstrable outcomes in terms of pain relief and functional improvement. The challenges of diagnosis in patients with spinal pain, however, are that spinal pain is often multifactorial, the factors involved are wide ranging, and for most of these factors there exist no definitive objective tests.

DISCUSSION:   The theoretical model of a diagnosis-based clinical decision rule has been developed that may provide clinicians with an approach to non-surgical spine pain patients that allows for specific treatment decisions based on a specific diagnosis. This is not a classification scheme, but a thought process that attempts to identify most important features present in each individual patient. Presented here is a description of the proposed approach, in which reliable and valid assessment procedures are used to arrive at a working diagnosis which considers the disparate factors contributing to spinal pain. Treatment decisions are based on the diagnosis and the outcome of treatment can be measured.

SUMMARY:   In this paper, the theoretical model of a proposed diagnosis-based clinical decision rule is presented. In a subsequent manuscript, the current evidence for the approach will be systematically reviewed, and we will present a research strategy required to fill in the gaps in the current evidence, as well as to investigate the decision rule as a whole.


From the FULL TEXT Article:


Chronic spinal pain is an increasingly common problem in Western Society [1]. Spinal disorders exact great costs, in terms of both direct medical costs and indirect costs related to disability and lost productivity [1-3]. A number of researchers have attempted to improve our ability to identify the causes of spinal pain as well as to diagnose and treat patients with this problem. In spite of this, accurate diagnosis, leading to specific, targeted treatments, of patients with spinal pain has been elusive.

It has been repeated over the years that only in 15% of patients with spinal pain can a definitive diagnosis be made [4-6]. However, if one surveys the spine literature, one finds a variety of methods for detecting many of the factors that are believed to be of importance, most of which have known reliability and validity, although there are some that do not. Each of these methods may only help the clinician to identify one particular potential contributing factor in the overall clinical picture of the spine pain patient. However, it may be possible that, by utilizing many of the various diagnostic procedures available to the spine clinician, one can develop a specific working diagnosis that encompasses all of the dimensions for which there may be contributing factors and from which a management strategy may be designed that addresses each of the most important factors in each individual patient.

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The purpose of this paper is to present the theoretical model of a diagnosis-based clinical decision rule (DBCDR) for the diagnosis and non-surgical management of patients with spinal pain. The model considers a number of known or suspected factors that contribute to the clinical picture and allows for the development of a management strategy that is derived from the multifactorial diagnosis. This paper presents the conceptual model of this clinical decision rule and its application in the clinical setting. In a subsequent manuscript we will systematically review the evidence regarding the components of the approach, and present those areas of research needed to investigate its validity and usefulness to spine clinicians.


The three essential questions of diagnosis

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