BACKGROUND: Successful management of workers on sick leave due to low back pain by the general physician and physiotherapist depends on reliable prognostic information on the course of low back pain and work resumption.
METHODS: Retrospective cohort study in 194 patients who were compensated because of chronic low back pain and who were treated by a physiotherapy functional restoration program. Patient-reported and clinician based prognostic indicators were assessed at baseline before patients entered the functional restoration program. We investigated the predictive value of these indicators on work status at 6 months. Relationships were studied using logistic regression analysis in a 2-step bootstrap modelling approach and a nomogram was developed. Discrimination and calibration of the nomogram was evaluated internally and the explained variation of the nomogram calculated.
RESULTS: Seventy percent of workers were back to work at 6 months. We found that including duration of complaints, functional disability, disc herniation and fear avoidance beliefs resulted in the "best" prognostic model. All these factors delayed work resumption. This model was used to construct a nomogram. The explained variation of the nomogram was 23.7%. Discrimination was estimated by the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve and was 0.76 and for calibration we used the slope estimate that was 0.91. The positive predictive values of the nomogram at different cut-off levels of predicted probability were good.
CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of the predictive value of these indicators by physicians and physiotherapists will help to identify subgroups of patients and will thus enhance clinical decision-making.