AUSTIN, TEX. – During a 3-year period, 5.7% of patients referred to an electromyography laboratory returned for at least one additional electrodiagnostic study, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. A preliminary analysis suggests that repeat testing for the same indication does not change symptom or disease management in about one-third of cases.
Physicians may request repeat electrodiagnostic studies to monitor previous, new, or progressing symptoms in the same or different body segments. “While the utility of [electrodiagnostic] studies for clinical care has been established, testing is associated with some patient risk, time, and cost,” the researchers wrote. “To date, there have been no known studies investigating the utility of repeat [electrodiagnostic] testing in the outpatient setting.”
To study referral patterns and outcomes following repeat electrodiagnostic testing,, an instructor in neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues examined all outpatient electromyography and nerve conduction studies performed between 2015 and 2017 in the neurology department at their institution. The investigators excluded patients who underwent inpatient electrodiagnostic studies from their analysis.
Approximately 4,800 patients underwent electrodiagnostic testing, 276 of whom underwent testing more than once.
Among patients who underwent two studies, 55% were referred by a different physician for the second study. Median neuropathy was the most common referring and final diagnosis among patients who underwent repeat electrodiagnostic testing, Dr. Boegle said. This finding was not surprising because carpal tunnel syndrome is among the most common reasons for referral overall.
Median neuropathy was the referring diagnosis in 31% and the final diagnosis in 30%, cervical radiculopathy in 15% and 14%, ulnar neuropathy in 14% and 17%, lumbosacral radiculopathy in 12% and 10%, and polyneuropathy in 8% and 10%.
The neurology and orthopedics departments made the most referrals for repeat electrodiagnostic studies (49.4% and 29.3%, respectively), followed by primary care physicians/internal medicine (13%).
About 24% of the returning patients underwent testing for the same indication as their initial referral.
A preliminary analysis of 26 patients who underwent a repeat study for the same indication found no change in treatment in 34%. When a study prompted intervention, a conservative course of management such as a splint or physical therapy was used in 42%. About 8% received a pharmacologic intervention, such as a medication change or steroid injections. Another 8% received a surgical intervention and about 8% received further work-up.
The researchers had no relevant disclosures.
SOURCE: Boegle AK et al. AANEM 2019, .