December 1st 2002
ABSTRACT: Unless the cause of back pain is obvious, order anteroposterior and lateral radiographs of the spine, a complete blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and urinalysis. If you suspect infection, tumor, or bony abnormalities, obtain an MRI or CT scan. MRI has surpassed bone scanning as the gold standard for diagnosing spinal infections, because it confirms a specific anatomic diagnosis. Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis are 2 of the most common causes of back pain in adolescents; the diagnosis is made with plain radiographs, which show slippage on the later-al view in patients with spondylolisthesis and fracture through the pars interarticularis on the oblique views in those with spondylolysis.