Reducing unnecessary spinal x-rays

The Australian Government is making changes to Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) funded spinal X-rays and who can request them, following recommendations from the MBS Review Taskforce.

Page last updated: 22 August 2017

Reducing unnecessary spinal x-rays (PDF 70 KB)

What are the changes?

To ensure whole spine X-rays are being used appropriately and safely, the Government is removing the ability of chiropractors to request whole spine X-rays.

These changes will commence on 1 November 2017.

Why are these changes being made?

Evidence indicates that routine imaging of the lower back by whole spine X-rays (three and four regions) is not associated with clinical benefit and can lead to unnecessary doses of radiation. Most presentations of low back pain do not require diagnostic imaging as the result of any imaging is unlikely to change clinical management.

In 2014–15, approximately 130,000 three region X-rays were performed, with the majority requested by chiropractors.

The MBS Review Taskforce recommended removing the ability of all allied health practitioners from requesting three and four field back X-rays. The Government has decided to remove the ability of chiropractors to request these X-rays, as chiropractors order the majority of these services. The Taskforce will continue to monitor the requesting of whole spine X-rays.

What does this mean for patients?

Patients will continue to be able to access spinal x-rays from other health practitioners where they are considered to be clinically appropriate, such as for assessing scoliosis.

What does this mean for providers?

Chiropractors will not be able to request MBS-funded three and four region spinal X-rays. They will still be able to request one and two region spinal X-rays when it is appropriate to do so.

Further details on all the changes can be found on MBS Online website.