Development of a screening tool predicting the transition from acute to chronic low back pain for patients in a GP setting: protocol of a multinational prospective cohort study

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2008 Dec 19:9:167. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-9-167.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is by far the most prevalent and costly musculoskeletal problem in our society today. Following the recommendations of the Multinational Musculoskeletal Inception Cohort Study (MMICS) Statement, our study aims to define outcome assessment tools for patients with acute LBP and the time point at which chronic LBP becomes manifest and to identify patient characteristics which increase the risk of chronicity.

Methods: Patients with acute LBP will be recruited from clinics of general practitioners (GPs) in New Zealand (NZ) and Switzerland (CH). They will be assessed by postal survey at baseline and at 3, 6, 12 weeks and 6 months follow-up. Primary outcome will be disability as measured by the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI); key secondary endpoints will be general health as measured by the acute SF-12 and pain as measured on the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). A subgroup analysis of different assessment instruments and baseline characteristics will be performed using multiple linear regression models. This study aims to examine: 1. Which biomedical, psychological, social, and occupational outcome assessment tools are identifiers for the transition from acute to chronic LBP and at which time point this transition becomes manifest. 2. Which psychosocial and occupational baseline characteristics like work status and period of work absenteeism influence the course from acute to chronic LBP. 3. Differences in outcome assessment tools and baseline characteristics of patients in NZ compared with CH.

Discussion: This study will develop a screening tool for patients with acute LBP to be used in GP clinics to access the risk of developing chronic LBP. In addition, biomedical, psychological, social, and occupational patient characteristics which influence the course from acute to chronic LBP will be identified. Furthermore, an appropriate time point for follow-ups will be given to detect this transition. The generalizability of our findings will be enhanced by the international perspective of this study.

Trial registration: [Clinical Trial Registration Number, ACTRN12608000520336].

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Employment
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / trends
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / trends
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychology
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Assessment / trends
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult