Acute low back pain: Is gatekeeping second best?

Anat Neville*, Zvika Liss, Amnon Lahad, Boaz Porter, Pesach Shvartzman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Low back pain is a common problem managed by primary care physicians and orthopedic specialists. Objectives: To evaluate the outcome of new LBP episodes in patients who chose to visit either an orthopedist or their general practitioner. Methods: All patients visiting the orthopedist or physician during the study period were screened for a new complaint of LBP. After the initial visit the patients were interviewed by phone using a structured questionnaire, with a follow-up interview one month later. The study was performed at Clalit Health Services primary care and consultation clinics. A random sample of 125 GPs and 17 orthopedists were chosen. Consecutively recruited were 166 patients who visited the GP and 75 the orthopedist. The main outcome measures evaluated were perceived complaint severity and degree of disturbance to everyday functioning, problem resolution, and health services utilization. Results: Patients who decided to first visit the orthopedist indicated a higher disturbance to everyday functioning (75% vs. 70%, P < 0.01), were invited for further follow-up visits (6% vs. 51%, P < 0.05) and had more computed tomography and bone scans (20 vs. 3%, P < 0.001 and 9 vs. 2%, P < 0.05, respectively). Health status after one month showed that patients who chose the GP were more likely to have their problem solved (36 vs. 17%, P < 0.05). Conclusions: Symptom resolution for a new LBP complaint was significantly higher in patients who decided on the GP, even when controlling for severity of illness and degree of disturbance to everyday functioning.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)647-651
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Low back pain
  • Orthopedics
  • Primary care
  • Quality of care


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