In the Clinic is a monthly feature in Annals of Internal Medicine introduced in January 2007 that focuses on practical management of patients with common clinical conditions. It offers evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about screening, prevention, diagnosis, therapy, and patient education and provides physicians with tools to improve the quality of care.
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Low Back Pain
Low back pain is a common problem that is the leading cause of disability and is associated with high costs. Evaluation focuses on identification of risk factors indicating a serious underlying condition and increased risk for persistent disabling symptoms in order to guide selective use of diagnostic testing (including imaging) and treatments. Nonpharmacologic therapies, including exercise and psychosocial management, are preferred for most patients with low back pain and may be supplemented with adjunctive drug therapies. Surgery and interventional procedures are options in a minority of patients who do not respond to standard treatments.
Care of the Patient With Abnormal Liver Test Results
Liver tests are commonly performed in primary care and may signal the presence of acute or chronic liver disease. Abnormal results are defined by standardized rather than individual laboratory thresholds and must be interpreted in the context of a patient's history and examination. The pattern and severity of liver injury may provide clues about the cause of disease and should guide diagnostic evaluation with serologic testing and liver imaging. A systematic, stepwise approach to the evaluation and management of abnormal liver test results is recommended to optimize high-value care.