Index to Chiropractic Literature
Index to Chiropractic Literature
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ID 27087
  Title Effect of patient use of physical therapy after referral for musculoskeletal conditions on future medical utilization: A retrospective cohort analysis
Journal J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2021 Oct;44(8):621-636
Peer Review Yes
Publication Type Article

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether physical therapy use influenced subsequent use of musculoskeletal-related surgeries, injections, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other imaging.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients aged 18 to 64 years who had an ambulatory care visit at the University of Utah system, after implementation of the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems with adequate data collection in the system at the time of the data pull, between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2018. We identified patients (n = 85 186) who received care for a musculoskeletal condition (lower back pain, cervical, knee, shoulder, hip, elbow, ankle, wrist/hand, thoracic, and arthritis diagnoses). Regression analyses were used to evaluate the association between physical therapy use and medical care use while controlling for relevant factors.

Results: In patients referred to physical therapy (n = 15 870), physical therapy use (n = 3812) was associated with increased MRI use (incidence rate ratio, 1.24; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-1.33; P < .001) and surgery use (incidence rate ratio, 1.11; 95% confidence interval, 1.00-1.23; P < .001). Several other factors were also associated with increased health care use, including being referred by an orthopedic provider, obesity, non-lower back pain diagnoses, and having 1 or more comorbidities.

Conclusion: Outpatient physical therapy use for musculoskeletal conditions in adult patients younger than 65 years at the University of Utah system, a mountain west United States academic health care system, was associated with increased rates of MRI and surgery. This finding is contrary to prior research suggesting that physical therapy improves outcomes in some diagnosis groups. A referral from an orthopedic provider, non-lower back pain diagnoses, and obesity were also associated with increased medical care utilization.

Author keywords: Physical Therapy Specialty, Regression Analyses, Orthopedics

This abstract is reproduced with the permission of the publisher; full text is available by subscription. Click on the above link and select a publisher from PubMed's LinkOut feature.


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