Research for the School of Chiropractic | AECC University College

Looking at How Clinical Terminology Impacts Patient Perception During Prognosis

Emerging research suggests that words themselves used by clinicians may have an impact on the prognosis and severity of a pain-based condition. Professor Dave Newell was part of a team of high-profile low back pain experts that explored how patients perceived terms commonly used by clinicians in lumbar spine imaging reports. that describe and how they were perceived in terms of seriousness, persistence of the condition, fear in moving, beliefs about back pain and back pain intensity. The study, published in the BMJ, was across sectional survey of patients form 5 countries including UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Results included nearly 700 respondents and nearly half had had lumbar spine imaging. Generally patients understanding of the meaning of terms was poor and around half to nearly three quarters considered these terms indicated that their back pain was serious, that their pain might persists and that they would be fearful of movement even though many of the terms did not indicate seriousness of the condition.

Generally, the study concluded that common and usually non-serious terms used in lumbar spine imaging reports are poorly understood by the general population and may actually make things worse when not appropriately explained by the clinician.

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