A descriptive study of the utilization of physical therapy for postoperative rehabilitation in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy

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Purpose: To determine the referral patterns, utilization and indications for postoperative physical therapy (PT) for lumbar radiculopathy. At least 50 % of patients following lumbar surgery (LS) for radiculopathy are referred for PT to address postoperative pain and disability. Very little is known regarding factors following LS that predict referral to PT, patient perceptions, satisfaction of postoperative PT and predictors of success for PT following LS for radiculopathy. Methods: Sixty-five patients who underwent LS for radiculopathy completed outcome measures on pain and disability prior to, and 1, 3, 6 and 12 months after LS. They also completed a questionnaire regarding postoperative PT at the 12-month follow-up. Results: The majority of patients (59.32 %) attended PT after LS for an average of 14 visits and rated PT favorably. Forty-five percent of the patients who did not attend PT after LS were of the opinion that they would have benefitted from PT after LS, and 62.5 % of these patients reported the surgeon not discussing postoperative PT after LS. Patients with longer duration of symptoms prior to surgery, with greater leg pain scores 1 month after surgery, and who did not feel as well prepared for surgery at the 1 year follow-up were more likely to receive PT, but this did not result in significantly better outcomes on any measure at any follow-up period and did not predict attendance in PT after LS. Conclusion: There is a need to determine if a subgroup of patients following LS exists who will respond favorably to postoperative PT. © 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.