Workers' Comp Linked to Poor Rotator Cuff Surgery Outcome

Worse outcomes after surgery are independently predicted by a Worker's Compensation claim
By Pat F. Bass, M.D.
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Even after controlling for confounding factors, Workers' Compensation cases are associated with poorer outcomes in patients with rotator cuff repair, according to a report in the October issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

R. Frank Henn III, M.D., of Brown University in Providence, R.I., and colleagues examined the impact of workers' compensation claims on outcomes one year following rotator cuff surgery among 125 patients operated on by a single surgeon. Patients were assessed pre- and post-operatively, but before workers' compensation cases were settled, with the following: the Simple Shoulder Test; the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand index; three visual analog scales (shoulder pain, shoulder function, and quality of life); and the Short Form-36.

Overall, patients involved in Workers' Compensation cases were significantly younger, less educated, less likely to be married, and had greater work demands and lower preoperative expectations for the surgical outcome compared to the non-Workers' Compensation group, the investigators found. Outcome scores were significantly lower pre-operatively and one-year post-surgery in the Workers' Compensation group, the researchers report.

"We strongly believe that the present study should not discourage clinicians from recommending indicated rotator cuff repair to Workers' Compensation patients," the authors comment. "Rather, it should provide a framework for outcome evaluation for both patients and surgeons. In the future, our goal is to determine how to optimize the outcome of rotator cuff repair for all patients, including those with Workers' Compensation claims."

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