Peters SE, Coppieters MW, Ross M, and Johnston V.
Journal of Hand Therapy (in press).
Study Design: Descriptive study.
Introduction: A delayed return to work (RTW) is often associated with poorer outcomes after a workplace injury but is ill defined.
Purpose of the Study: To define delayed RTW after surgery for nontraumatic upper extremity conditions.
Methods: Experts were consulted to define delayed RTW and whether a universal time point can determine the transition from early to delayed RTW.
Results: Forty-two experts defined a delayed RTW as either a worker not returning to preinjury (or similar) work within the expected time frame (45%); not returning to any type of work (36%); or recovering slower than expected (12%). Two-thirds of experts believed that universal time points to delineate delayed RTW should be avoided.
Discussion: Multiple factors complicate a uniform definition of delayed RTW.
Conclusion: Defining delayed RTW should be individualized with due consideration to the type of work. Time-based cutoffs for outcome measurement may not be appropriate with continuous measures more appropriate in research.
Level of Evidence: Decision analysis V.