Long-Term Outcomes after Lower Extremity Trauma


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Abstract

Previous studies have shown that over one-quarter of patients who were working before a severe lower extremity fracture had not returned to work by 12 months after injury. Disabilities also persisted in household management, recreation, and social interaction. The objective of this study was to determine whether recovery extended beyond 12 months. Three hundred nineteen patients who were previously working and were treated at three level I trauma centers for a severe lower extremity fracture were prospectively followed at 3, 6, and 12 months after injury. Patients were queried at each follow-up about their work status and completed the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP) at 6 and 12 months. The SIP is a widely used and well validated measure of general health status; it was used in this study to measure functional recovery across several domains of daily living. Patients who had not recovered by 12 months (i.e., 204 who were not working, working with limitations, or had limitations in performing other daily activities as measured by elevated scores on the SIP) were contacted again at 30 months and asked to complete an interview and the SIP. At 30 months, an estimated 82% of the study patients had returned to work (compared to 72% at 12 months). SIP scores improved only slightly from 6.4 at 12 months to 5.7 at 30 months. At 30 months, 64% of the patients had no disability (SIP scores less than 4), 17% had mild disability (SIP scores of 4 to 9), 12% had moderate disability (SIP scores of 10 to 19), and 7% had severe disability (SIP scores of 20 or higher). Although the majority of patients with persistent disabilities at 30 months had residual physical impairments at 12 months, the extent of impairment did not fully explain why some people had and had not recovered at 30 months after injury. The results confirm those of other studies that conclude that overall, outcomes after serious trauma are good when appropriate trauma and rehabilitation care are rendered. However, a minority of patients still report limitations at 30 months after injury, with one-fifth not returning to work.

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