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Physical therapy services utilization and length of stay for obese patients following traumatic leg fracture.



Obesity is an increasing epidemic that can complicate the treatment of simple injuries and can increase health care costs. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether obesity is a factor in the utilization of inpatient physical therapy services and length of stay following a traumatic lower leg fracture.


A retrospective study of patients admitted to the hospital in 2005 and 2006 with a primary discharge diagnosis of lower leg or ankle fracture was conducted. Inclusion criteria were age > or = 18 years, only 1 involved lower extremity, and nonweight-bearing on the affected extremity per physician orders. Patients were excluded from the study if they had a fibular fracture only, pathological fractures, multiple trauma, severe cardiac or vascular comorbidities, or cognitive impairments. Data were compiled into 3 categories on the basis of body mass index (BMI): < 30, 30-35, > 35. Physical therapy services were measured in 15-minute units of time. These data were analyzed by within-group and between-group comparisons and with regression analysis.


A total of 181 patients with a primary discharge diagnosis of distal lower extremity or ankle fracture were included in the study. Patients with a BMI >35 used more physical therapy services (mean services, 9.8 units) than did patients with a BMI of 30-35 (mean services, 6.2 units) or a BMI <30 (mean services, 5.6 units) (P = .001). Length of stay was also highest among patients with a BMI >35.


Factors other than BMI may be associated with length of stay and physical therapy use and may confound the association.


Previous studies have shown that there is an increase in health care utilization among the bariatric population. The present study demonstrates similar findings for physical therapy services. Increased length of stay and physical therapy utilization among the bariatric population also result in increased staff utilization and equipment costs.


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    Body Mass Index
    Fractures, Bone
    International Classification of Diseases
    Leg Injuries
    Length of Stay
    Middle Aged
    North Carolina
    Physical Therapy Department, Hospital
    Physical Therapy Modalities
    Retrospective Studies

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article



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