The purpose of this study was to characterize outpatient physical therapy (OPT) use following tibial fractures and examine the variability of OPT attendance, time of initiation, number of visits, and length of care by patient, injury, and treatment factors. In the absence of clinical guidelines, results will guide future efforts to optimize OPT following tibial fractures.
This study used 2016 to 2017 claims from the IBM MarketScan Commercial Claims Research Database. The cohort included 9079 patients with International Classification of Diseases: Tenth Revision (ICD-10) diagnosis codes for tibial fractures. Use in the year following initial fracture management was determined using Current Procedural Terminology codes. Differences in use were examined using χ2 tests, t tests, and Kruskal-Wallace tests.
Sixty-seven percent of patients received OPT the year following fracture. OPT attendance was higher in female patients, in patients with 1 or no major comorbidity, and in the western United States. Attendance was higher in patients with upper tibial fractures, moderate-severity injuries, and treatment with external fixation and in patients discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Patients started OPT on average [SD] 50 [52.6] days after fracture and attended 18 [16.1] visits over the course of 101 [86.4] days. The timing of OPT, the number of visits attended, and the length of OPT care varied by patient, injury, and treatment-level factors.
One-third of insured patients do not receive OPT following tibial fracture. The timing of OPT initiation, the length of OPT care, and the number of visits attended by patients with tibial fractures were highly variable. Further research is needed to standardize referral and prescription practices for OPT following tibial fractures.