Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Orthopaedic Surgeons Agree on the Decision for Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Document Type : Original Article


1 Occupational Therapy Department, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD, Australia

2 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Brisbane and Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

3 Amsterdam Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Physiotherapy, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

5 Office of Research Governance and Development, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD, Australia

6 Division of Allied Health, Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

7 Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


Therapist-led pathways have been proposed as waitlist management strategies prior to surgery for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in public hospitals. These models of care typically shift the initial care of patients and decision-making from surgeons to therapists and, have been shown to reduce the number of patients requiring surgery and improve wait-times. This occurs despite limited evidence of surgeon-therapist agreement on key decisions, such as the need for surgery. The purpose of this was study was to assess the agreement between therapists and orthopaedic surgeons regarding the need for surgery for patients who have CTS.
This blinded inter-rated agreement study was embedded in a multicentre randomised parallel groups trial of 105 patients with CTS referred to four orthopaedic departments and waitlisted for an appointment. The trial evaluated the effect of a therapist-led care pathway on the need for surgery and outcomes related to symptoms and function. Patients were randomised to either remain on the orthopaedic waitlist or receive group education, a splint and home exercises. The decision on the need for surgery at 6 months was made by a member of the orthopaedic consultant team or by one of the 14 participating therapists. The therapists and surgeons were blinded to each other’s decision. Agreement was determined using percentage agreement, kappa coefficients (k), prevalence-adjusted and bias-adjusted kappa (PABAK), and Gwet’s first-order agreement coefficient (AC1).
Substantial agreement was seen between therapists and surgeons regarding the need for surgery (PABAK = 0.74 (0.60-0.88)). Agreement was significantly associated with experience (P = .02). Therapists with advanced experience and scope of practice demonstrated perfect agreement with surgeons (PABAK = 1.00 (95% CI: 1.00-1.00)). Mid-career therapists demonstrated substantial agreement (PABAK = 0.67 (95% CI: 0.42-0.91)) and early-career therapists demonstrated fair agreement (PABAK = 0.43 (95% CI: -0.04-0.90)).
Therapists with advanced scope of practice make decisions that are consistent with orthopaedic surgeons.


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Volume 11, Issue 7
July 2022
Pages 1001-1008
  • Receive Date: 03 June 2020
  • Revise Date: 21 September 2020
  • Accept Date: 23 November 2020
  • First Publish Date: 16 December 2020