Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Work in Surgical Populations
Author Affiliations
  • Washington University School of Medicine
Article Information
Military Rehabilitation / Work and Industry / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Work in Surgical Populations
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505126.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505126.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

This research measured work status pre- and postsurgically in 10,820 patients. Employed persons had higher quality of life and work ability than nonemployed persons at baseline and 1 mo postsurgery. Interventions are needed to address work in the ever-growing surgical population.

Primary Author and Speaker: Vicki Kaskutas

Contributing Authors: Michael Avidan, Arbi Ben Abdullah, Kirstie Hamer, Maggie Marohl, Thomas Wilson

BACKGROUND: Millions of working-aged adults undergo surgical procedures each year. Work is an integral part of life, and addressing return to work (RTW) after surgery may prevent work disability. Patient perceptions and physical and mental quality of life (QOL) are important to examine in the context of RTW.
OBJECTIVES: The long-range goal of this research is to understand what factors facilitate RTW postsurgery; in the current project, we examined physical and mental QOL and perceived work ability.
METHOD: After examining the literature to identify where work has been addressed with surgical populations, presurgical and 30-day postsurgical surveys from 15,433 patients presenting for surgery at a large Midwestern medical center were analyzed. We compared mental and physical QOL (Veterans Rand-12) and perceived work ability (Work Ability Index) between employed and nonemployed patients (N = 15,433) presenting for surgery at a large Midwestern medical center just before surgery and 30 days postoperation. Baseline employment status and RTW at 30-day follow-up were examined.
RESULTS: Much of the literature exploring employment and surgery focuses on transplants (32%), organ removals (15%), and heart surgeries (13%). In the sample presenting for surgery (n = 10,820), 43% were employed at baseline, but only 73% of these individuals believed they would be able to perform their current job 1 yr postsurgery. Individuals who were employed at baseline (43% of the sample) demonstrated higher mean physical and mental QOL ratings (5.8 and 2.3 points respectively) than nonworking participants (p < .0001). Perception of work ability on a 10-point scale was also higher at baseline in employed participants (7.41) versus nonworking participants (5.24; p < .0001).
At 30 days postoperation, 70% of the 3,599 respondents had returned to work. Mean physical and mental QOL ratings remained higher in employed participants (13.8 and 6.9 points, respectively) than nonworking participants (p < .0001). Although scores cannot be directly compared between baseline and follow-up due to differences in the number of respondents, physical and mental QOL ratings improved after surgery in the working group, whereas they decreased to a much larger degree in the nonworking group.
SIGNIFICANCE: Previous literature has focused on work after major invasive surgical procedures; however, there is a void in the literature on the range of conditions requiring routine surgical intervention. Long-term impairment is often not expected after many surgical procedures, so it is a concern that more than one-fourth of those working presurgery did not perceive that they would be working 1 yr postsurgery.
Despite a limited sample at follow-up that prevented us from fully exploring changes in QOL postoperation, an interesting relationship between work and physical and mental QOL exists that should be further explored. Working may positively influence QOL and/or QOL may influence work status.
Further research is planned to examine factors that interfere and support RTW. This research will help inform occupational therapy interventions and help clients RTW more successfully. Identifying factors that relate to return to work after surgery may lead to testing interventions for people having routine surgical procedures.