Patient Preferences for Plain Radiographs in the Setting of Atraumatic Shoulder Pain: Which Factors Influence Their Decision?

Michael Lyudmer, Benjamin J. Levy, Ari J. Holtzman, Sriram Sankaranarayanan, Eloy Tabeayo, Konrad I. Gruson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Plain radiographs of the shoulder are routinely obtained for patients presenting with atraumatic shoulder pain, although the diagnostic utility of this imaging modality is unclear. Despite this, patients often prefer to obtain radiographs and may associate them with a more satisfactory visit. Methods: New patients presenting with atraumatic shoulder pain were provided with information regarding the potential advantages and disadvantages of plain radiographs as part of their visit. Patients then decided whether to receive radiographs and baseline patient demographics were collected. A detailed physical examination and history was performed by a fellowship-trained provider, and a preliminary diagnosis and tentative treatment plan was formulated. The radiographs were then reviewed to determine whether the diagnosis and treatment plan was altered by addition of the radiographs. Patients who opted for radiographs then reported whether they felt the radiographs aided in diagnosis and treatment and whether the addition of the radiograph influenced their visit satisfaction. Results: A total of 220 patients met the inclusion criteria. Overall, 121 patients (55%) requested a radiograph. The mean age was 57.1 6 16.1 years (range, 18 to 91 years). Lack of bachelor’s degree (odds ratio [OR], 2.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 to 6.2; P = 0.01), lack of previous contralateral shoulder pain (OR, 4.0; 95% CI, 2.0 to 8.2; P = 0.0001), and lack of a previous shoulder radiograph (OR, 8.4; 95% CI, 4.1 to 16.9; P, 0.0001) or MRI within the last 6 months (OR, 6.2; 95% CI, 1.4 to 26.8; P = 0.01) were independently associated with patient preference to obtain radiographs for atraumatic shoulder pain. Of the 121 patients who requested radiographs, 117 (96.7%) felt that radiographs improved their satisfaction. Discussion: Patients who obtained radiographs overwhelmingly reported its importance in improving visit satisfaction and diagnostic accuracy. Given the increasing emphasis on shared decision making, further study of patient factors influencing the decision to obtain routine radiographs will lead to more efficient practice management and potentially improved patient satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E295-E303
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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