Findings published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of the AAOS suggest that routine radiographs rarely affect management of atraumatic shoulder pain, particularly among younger patients. Members of the research team conducted a diagnostic study of 343 patients. 

For each patient, they considered medical history and physical examination, and developed a preliminary diagnosis and tentative treatment plan. They then considered whether additional information obtained through routine radiographs would alter the diagnosis or treatment. The researchers found that age older than 50 years and weakness in forward elevation were associated with radiographic findings. They found that routine radiographs altered the proposed diagnosis in 14.9 percent of cases, although clinical management was changed in only 1.7 percent of cases. The researchers note that plain radiographs had no effect on clinical management in 97.4 percent of patients younger than 50 years. Learn more...

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