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rotator cuff repair, quality-based care, minimal clinically important difference, substantial clinical benefit, patient acceptable symptom state, return to work

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Background: The incidence of rotator cuff repairs has risen dramatically over the past 10 years, most notably in the working-class population. Return to work (RTW) is a valuable outcome measure to set patient expectations before surgery.

Purpose: To establish the rate of RTW after rotator cuff repair with respect to stratified levels of occupational demand (sedentary, light, moderate, and heavy) and to identify clinical factors significantly associated with postoperative RTW.

Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Patients who received rotator cuff repair between 2014 and 2017 were queried from a prospectively maintained institutional registry. Work status was evaluated from clinical and physical therapy notes, and RTW was stratified based on duty level. The minimal clinically important difference (MCID), substantial clinical benefit (SCB), and patient acceptable symptom state (PASS) values were calculated for American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score and subjective Constant score through use of an anchor-based approach. Patient demographic factors, preoperative ASES scores, Constant scores, and health-related quality of life scores, as well as change in postoperative scores exceeding the thresholds for MCID, SCB, and PASS, were analyzed to determine significant associations with RTW without restriction.

Results: In total, 89 patients with documented pre- and postoperative work status underwent surgery. Rates of RTW for sedentary, light, moderate, and heavy duties were 100%, 84.0%, 77.4%, and 63.3%, respectively, within return at less than 7 postoperative months on average. RTW was associated with achieving PASS (P = .004) but not achieving MCID and SCB (P = .429 and .452, respectively). Injury to a patient’s dominant side had reduced odds (0.057; 95% CI, 0.004-0.763; P = .030) for RTW at full duty. Tear characteristics and type of insurance were not associated with RTW. Preoperative Veterans RAND Mental Component Score (>53.3; area under the curve, 70.4%) was predictive of returning to work.

Conclusion: A vast majority of patients undergoing rotator cuff repair can expect to return to work within 8 months of surgery. Preoperative mental health scores can predict future return to work, which supports the concept that mental health status plays an important role in the outcomes after rotator cuff repair surgery.

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Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, v. 7, issue 10, p. 1-9