Effects of Injury Pattern and Treatment on Case Length and Disposition for Hand Injuries Treated Under a Workers’ Compensation Claim

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Background: In treating occupational hand injuries under workers’ compensation, the 2 most important goals are to maximize patient function, ideally to preinjury levels, and permit a timely return to work (RTW). The purpose of this study was to determine factors affecting total case length, that is, the total time from injury until primary closure of a patient’s claim, and disposition among patients with hand injuries treated under workers’ compensation. Methods: All cases treated under workers’ compensation by a single fellowship-trained hand surgeon within a single year were retrospectively reviewed. A case is defined as the entire management and treatment of a single patient related to a single occupational injury incident. Independent variables included age, sex, body mass index, comorbidity, occupation, injury pattern, and treatment modality. Dependent variables included treatment duration from injury to case closure and final case disposition (RTW, functional capacity evaluation [FCE], or loss to follow-up [LTFU]). Comparison between groups was accomplished with analysis of variance. Multivariate linear and logistic regression analysis was performed to predict case length and disposition. Results: In all, 447 cases involving a workers’ compensation claim were reviewed. Among these, 75 (16.8%) were LTFU, 24 (5.4%) required an FCE, and 346 (77.4%) an RTW. The RTW cases averaged 138.5 days, whereas those requiring FCE averaged 331.5 days. Compared with average case length, crush injuries (76.8 days. P <.001) and fractures (111.8 days, P =.0224) had significantly shorter time to closure. In a multivariate linear model, cases of soft tissue and nerve injury were associated with longer case lengths, remaining open for an additional 56.8 and 347.1 days, respectively (P <.001). Each treatment modality studied, therapy, injections, and surgery, was associated with an increase in case length. Conclusions: Cases requiring FCE were open significantly longer than those resulting in RTW. In addition, injury pattern and treatment modality were associated with significant variations in total case length. These results imply that a specific subset of patients, namely those with soft tissue and nerve injuries, may experience delayed resolution among patients treated under a workers’ compensation claim.


Fracture; Functional capacity evaluation; Return to work; Workers’ compensation


Health and Medical Administration | Health Policy



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