ACR Appropriateness Criteria® Low Back Pain: 2021 Update

Expert Panel on Neurological Imaging:

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In the United States, acute low back pain, with or without radiculopathy, is the leading cause of years lived with disability and the third ranking cause of disability-adjusted life-years. Uncomplicated acute low back pain and/or radiculopathy is a benign, self-limited condition that does not warrant any imaging studies. Imaging is considered in those patients who have had up to 6 weeks of medical management and physical therapy that resulted in little or no improvement in their back pain. It is also considered for those patients presenting with red flags, raising suspicion for a serious underlying condition, such as cauda equina syndrome, malignancy, fracture, or infection. The American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed annually by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and revision include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer reviewed journals and the application of well-established methodologies (RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation or GRADE) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures for specific clinical scenarios. In those instances where evidence is lacking or equivocal, expert opinion may supplement the available evidence to recommend imaging or treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S361-S379
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • AUC
  • Appropriate Use Criteria
  • Appropriateness Criteria
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Low back pain (LBP)
  • Lumbago
  • Lumbar pain
  • Radiculopathy
  • Red flags


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