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Understanding prognosis to improve rehabilitation: The example of lateral elbow pain

  • Pamela L. Hudak
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests to P. Hudak, Institute for Work and Health, 250 Bloor St E, Ste 702, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4W 1E6.
    Affiliations
    Institute for Work and Health, Toronto, Canada

    The Toronto Hospital Hand Program, Toronto, Canada
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  • Donald C. Cole
    Affiliations
    Institute for Work and Health, Toronto, Canada

    Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Occupational Health Program, McMcaster University, Hamilton, Canada
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  • A.Ted Haines
    Affiliations
    Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Occupational Health Program, McMcaster University, Hamilton, Canada

    LAMP Occupational Health Program, Etobicoke Ontario, Canada
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      Abstract

      Objective: A systematic overview of evidence aimed at determining the clinical course of lateral elbow pain and prognostic factors that affect elbow pain duration and outcomes.
      Data Sources: Online bibliographic database searches from 1983 to 1994; information requests from selected authors and bibliography screenings.
      Study Selection: One author reviewed 424 articles; 40 met the following eligibility criteria: any study with primary data on soft tissue injuries specific to the elbow which referred to prognosis or reported use of any outcome measure.
      Data Abstraction: Strength of evidence grade based on clinical epidemiological validity assessment. Criteria included in the validity assessment included case definition, patient selection, follow-up, outcome, prognostic factors, and analysis. All eligible studies were independently assessed by two investigators.
      Data Synthesis: Four studies (10%) were judged to provide moderate strength of evidence; no studies were graded as providing strong evidence on prognosis. All four moderate-quality studies were clinical trials of short duration. One study indicated that site of lesion and prior occurrence may be predictive of poorer outcome in patients with lateral epicondylitis.
      Conclusion: The majority of studies on lateral elbow pain were limited by methodological weaknesses in selection and definition of the study population, length of follow-up, and analysis of prognostic factors. Estimates of duration were only available from weaker studies with longer follow-up times; significant subject heterogeneity in the weaker studies prevented a determination of usual clinical course. More methodologically rigorous research on prognosis could assist clinicians in patient care and evaluation of interventions.
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