Triage for Patients with Spinal Complaints: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Claire McEvoy, Louise Wiles, Susanne Bernhardsson, Karen Grimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose: The aim of this study is to provide a systematic overview of the past decade of literature on processes of triage for patients with spinal pain, outcomes measured and markers of effectiveness. Methods: A systematic search of the literature with narrative synthesis of findings was conducted. Studies in English language of any design concerning spinal triage programmes for adults with acute or chronic spinal complaints were considered for inclusion. Electronic database searches were conducted in OVID, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, Health Source Nursing, Scopus and Web of Science. Additional references were sourced through pearling reference lists, and expert input. Findings were synthesized descriptively. Results: Of 216 potentially relevant records, 21 papers (20 studies) were included. There was little commonality in triage activities/programmes and outcomes, although physiotherapists were common members of triage programmes. Positive outcomes were reported most commonly for wait times, with several studies also reporting high levels of patient and physician satisfaction. Outcomes such as surgical conversion rates and selection accuracy were less clear. Discussion: Spinal triage programmes have the potential to improve efficiency of care for outpatients with spinal complaints. The evidence gaps in health outcomes, service models and cost effectiveness should be addressed by more robust prospective research designs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1639
JournalPhysiotherapy Research International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • critical pathways
  • low back pain
  • spinal
  • triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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