General practitioners' management of low back pain: Impact of clinical guidelines in a non-English-speaking country

Stefano Negrini, Elena Politano, Roberta Carabalona, Adelmo Mambrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design. Cross-sectional. Objectives. To evaluate the assessment of patients with low back pain by general practitioners (GPs) in a non-English-speaking country and to compare their behavior with AHCPR and CSAG clinical guidelines. Summary of Background Data. The diffusion of clinical guidelines (and their everyday application by health care professionals) is a significant problem. Because most guidelines are developed in English, concerns over their diffusion are obviously greater in non-English-speaking countries. Methods. A questionnaire was sent to all the GPs in the province of Mantua, Italy (n = 318). The authors evaluated what examinations are routinely performed and what danger symptoms and signs prompt referral of patients. GPs indicated the frequency of their prescription of radiographs, computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, laboratory tests, and consultations. The findings were compared with a "gold standard": the AHCPR and CSAG clinical guidelines. Results. The response rate was 68.2%. Only 28.0% of GPs perform all the tests considered important by the clinical guidelines, and 33.0% were aware of all the red flags. Correspondence with the clinical guideline recommendations ranged from 14.6% to 89.4%. There is a clear tendency to overprescribe examinations in acute cases, whereas in chronic cases underprescription is sometimes seen. Conclusions. In a non-English-speaking country the evaluation of low back pain by GPs does not reflect current recommendations, and the situation is seen to be worse than in English-speaking countries. Concerns over the diffusion of guidelines must therefore be considered greater in non-English-speaking countries, where thorough presentation to GPs of the existing "evidence-based" guidelines is to be recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2727-2733
Number of pages7
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 15 2001


  • Clinical guidelines
  • General practitioners
  • Low back pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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