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Physical therapy of patients undergoing first-time lumbar discectomy: a survey of current UK practice

Alsiaf, Hanan, O'Neill, Terence W, Callaghan, Michael J ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3540-2838 and Goodwin, Peter C (2022) Physical therapy of patients undergoing first-time lumbar discectomy: a survey of current UK practice. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 23 (1). p. 503. ISSN 1471-2474

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Abstract

Background: The type, timing, and extent of provision of rehabilitation for lumbar discectomy patients in the UK are currently unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the provision and type of rehabilitation for patients undergoing lumbar discectomy in UK neurosurgical centers. Method: Physical therapists involved in treating lumbar discectomy patients in UK neurosurgery centers were invited to complete an online survey that asked about the type, timing (preop, postop), and rehabilitation content for patients undergoing lumbar discectomy. Results: Seventeen UK neurosurgery centers completed the survey. Twelve (36%) responded from the 33 centers targeted as well as an additional five private centers. All participating centers provided a rehabilitation service for lumbar discectomy patients. Rehabilitation was provided preoperatively in n = 6 (35%) centers, postoperatively as an inpatient in all centers, and postoperatively as an outpatient in n = 14 (82%) centers. Factors that influenced the decision to provide rehabilitation included both external and internal or patient-related factors. Preoperative rehabilitation focused mainly on education, whilst postoperative outpatient rehabilitation focused more on exercises. Rehabilitation consistently included mobility, functional task training, and exercise prescription. Conclusions: Whilst all neurosurgical centers in this survey provided some form of rehabilitation for patients undergoing LD surgery, the approach remains inconsistent. Rehabilitation was delivered most frequently postoperatively, with one in three centers providing it preoperatively. Rehabilitation content also varied depending on when it was provided. Further research is needed to determine the optimum timing, contents, and target of rehabilitation for patients undergoing LD surgery.

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