A retrospective study of return to work following surgery

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BackgroundSickness absence following surgery accounts for significant periods of sickness absence from employment. The duration of absence following two surgical procedures: benign abdominal hysterectomy (BAH) and Birmingham hip resurfacing (BHR) was explored.AimTo identify what advice patients who had undergone BAH or BHR surgery were given regarding their likely sickness absence duration and to compare this with their reported absence duration.MethodIn all, 453 patients who had undergone BAH or BHR surgery during 2004 were contacted by postal questionnaire and the results were statistically analysed.ResultsThe advice given to patients to refrain from work varied from 4 weeks to >15 weeks for BAH surgery which was inconsistent with evidence-based guidance provided by the Department of Work and Pensions. The advice for BHR varied from <4 weeks to >15 weeks. Advice given by health care professionals appeared to have the greatest influence on return to work times with patients tending to adhere to any advice that is given irrespective of its duration. Twenty-two (29%) BAH patients and thirty-six (43%) BHR patients reported that their employers provided temporary work modifications when they returned to work; however, this support appeared to have no effect on their sickness absence duration.ConclusionHealth care professional advice regarding expected sickness absence duration influenced absence duration. The awareness and use of more consistent evidence-based guidance may be beneficial for all involved in this process.

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