OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of a case manager-assisted rehabilitation programme as an add-on to usual physical rehabilitation in patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion.
DESIGN: A randomized controlled trial with a two-year follow-up.
SETTINGS: Outpatient clinics of a university hospital and a general hospital.
SUBJECTS: In total, 82 patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion.
INTERVENTIONS: The patients were randomized one-to-one to case manager-assisted rehabilitation (case manager group) or no case manager-assisted rehabilitation (control group). Both groups received usual physical rehabilitation. The case manager-assisted rehabilitation programme included a preoperative meeting with a case manager to determine a rehabilitation plan, postsurgical meetings, phone meetings, and voluntary workplace visits or roundtable meetings.
MAIN MEASURES: Primary outcome was the Oswestry Disability Index. Secondary outcomes were back pain, leg pain, and return to work.
RESULTS: Of the 41 patients in the case manager group, 49% were men, with the mean age of 46.1 (±8.7 years). In the control group, 51% were male, with the mean age of 47.4 (±8.9 years). No statistically significant between-group differences were found regarding any outcomes. An overall group effect of 4.1 points (95% confidence interval (CI): -1.8; 9.9) was found on the Oswestry Disability Index, favouring the control group. After two years, the relative risk of return to work was 1.18 (95% CI: 0.8; 1.7), favouring the case manager group.
CONCLUSION: The case manager-assisted rehabilitation programme had no effect on the patients' functional disability or back and leg pain compared to usual physical rehabilitation. The study lacked power to evaluate the impact on return to work.