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GPs lack advice on shoulder pain tests

GPs may struggle to make an accurate diagnosis of shoulder pain because of a lack of guidance on the best test for use in primary care, a Government-commissioned study reveals.

The Government's flagship Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme reviewed available literature on the effectiveness of diagnostic tests for soft tissue shoulder disorders. They found ultrasound was the most cost-effective hospital test for diagnosing rotator cuff tears (RCTs), compared to MRI or MRA scans.

But although shoulder pain is the third most common cause of musculoskeletal consultations in primary care, HTA researchers failed to find any studies in primary care of the best clinical test to show for differentiating between RCT and other shoulder problems.

Jackie Dinnes, a senior research fellow at the Southampton HTA Centre and lead author of the assessment, said 'We need a much larger study to evaluate it in primary care, especially in terms of clinical diagnosis. But there's no sponsorship for research into diagnostic tests.'

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