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J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Jan;40(1):20-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2010.3043.

Description of clinical outcomes and postoperative utilization of physical therapy services within 4 categories of shoulder surgery.

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Intermountain Healthcare, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, Murray, UT 84107, USA.



Retrospective cohort study.


To describe the clinical outcomes following outpatient physical therapy for postoperative rehabilitation in 4 categories of shoulder surgery. Furthermore, we sought to determine if differences in outcomes between genders existed.


Improving the quality of care for patients following shoulder surgery requires an understanding of the clinical outcomes resulting from current clinical practice.


This study included 856 patients (43.7% female; mean +/- SD age, 51.8 +/- 14.2 years) who received outpatient physical therapy following shoulder surgery. Standardized methods for classification of patients to type of shoulder surgery and collection of outcome variables were used. Data were gathered from 57 therapists working in 12 clinics. Patients included had been classified into 1 of 4 surgical categories: repair of a unidirectional instability, rotator cuff repair, rotator cuff repair with a subacromial decompression, or subacromial decompression alone. Descriptive statistics were calculated for baseline characteristics of patients in each surgical category. For all patients, scores on the Disability of the Arm Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire and a numeric pain rating scale (NPRS) were obtained at the initial and final physical therapy visits, and the change between visits was calculated. Data on number of physical therapy sessions and length of stay (LOS) were collected. For each surgical category, independent-samples t tests were used to determine differences between genders for each initial and final clinical outcome of pain and disability, change scores, utilization of visits, and LOS. The percentage of patients who achieved a minimal clinically important difference (MCID) on the DASH was also determined for each surgical group. For each gender in each surgical category, paired t tests were used to determine if patients achieved significant change in pain and disability.


Means for each clinical outcome for the initial and final pain and disability scores, change scores, and the percentage of patients that achieved an MCID are provided. Significant differences were observed between genders for clinical outcomes. In the group treated with unilateral instability repair, women reported significantly greater initial disability than men, and their DASH change scores were significantly greater. In the group that had rotator cuff repairs, women reported significantly greater disability initially and at the final follow-up. In the group that had rotator cuff repairs combined with subacrominal decompression, women reported significantly greater disability initially and greater change in DASH scores. Females also reported greater change in their pain scores than males (P<.05). There were no significant differences between men and women in the subacromial decompression group (P<.05). There were no significant differences between genders for number of physical therapy visits or LOS. Men and women in each surgical category achieved clinically meaningful and statistically significant improvement for pain and disability during treatments (P<.01). Greater than 75% of patients achieved an MCID (15 points) on the DASH score in each surgical category (range, 75.6%-94.5%).


Differences were observed between men and women in 4 postoperative surgical categories in each of the clinical outcomes but not for number of physical therapy visits or LOS. Statistically significant and clinically meaningful pain and disability improvements were reported for each gender within each shoulder category. Results from this study may help therapists estimate the prognosis of males and females receiving nonstandardized postoperative physical therapy in 4 different shoulder surgical categories.


Therapy, level 2b.

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