Physical and Occupational Therapy Use and Cost After Common Hand Procedures

Published:November 19, 2019DOI:


      The use of routine physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) after certain hand procedures, such as carpal tunnel release, remains controversial. The objective of this study was to evaluate baseline use, the change in use, variation in prescribing patterns by region, and costs for PT/OT after common hand procedures.


      Outpatient administrative claims data from patients who underwent procedures for carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, carpometacarpal arthritis, de Quervain tenosynovitis, wrist ganglion cyst, and distal radius fracture were abstracted from the Truven Health MarketScan database from 2007 to 2015. The incidence of therapy and total reimbursement of therapy per patient were collected for each procedure over a 90-day postoperative observational period. Trends in use of therapy over time were described with average compound annual growth rates (CAGRs), a way of quantifying average growth over a specified observation period. Variations in the incidence of PT/OT use across 4 census regions were assessed.


      The incidence of 90-day utilization of PT and OT after hand procedures was 14.0% and increased for all procedures during the observation period with an average CAGR of 8.3%. Cost per therapy visit was relatively stable when adjusted for inflation, with an average CAGR of 0.63%. Patients in the northeast had a significantly higher incidence of PT/OT use than those in the south and west for all procedures except carpometacarpal arthritis.


      Use of PT and OT has increased over time after common hand procedures. Geographical variation in the utilization rate of these services is substantial. Limiting unwarranted variation of care is a health policy strategy for increasing value of care.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Outcomes Research II.

      Key words

      JHS Podcast

      April 1, 2020

      JHS Podcast Episode 49

      Dr. Graham interviews Dr. Rob Kamal about his article "Physical and Occupational Therapy Use and Cost After Common Hand Procedures” , which appears in the April 2020 issue of the Journal of Hand Surgery.

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