(HealthDay News) – Claustrophobia is tied to higher rates of depression and psychological distress, but not disability, in back pain patients.

Hui-Ling Kerr, MBBS, from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a case-control study using 20 females and 13 males all requiring magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan under sedation for claustrophobia (group 1) and an age- and sex-matched cohort that had MRI scan without sedation (group 2). Psychometric evaluations were conducted and all patients had standard conservative therapy for low back pain.

The researchers found that the mean Zung Depression Index was significantly higher in group 1 than in group 2 (59.5 vs. 28.9), as was the mean Modified Somatic Perception Questionnaire score (13.3 vs. 9.2). Group 1 also had a higher prevalence of psychological distress (75.8 vs. 18.2%; P<0.05). Both groups were similar in the Oswestry Disability Index (50 vs. 48%). There were 13 surgical interventions in Group 1 (39.4%), compared with 26 in group 2 (78.8%; P<0.05).

“Claustrophobic patients with back pain showed higher levels of depression than nonclaustrophobic patients, with a higher rate of psychological distress,” the authors write. “Claustrophobia requiring sedation for MRI scans may be a proxy for psychological distress in these patients and psychometric testing is advised during assessment to help with surgical decision making.”

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