Cost-effectiveness analysis of adjuvant physical or occupational therapy for patients with reflex sympathetic dystrophy

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1999 Sep;80(9):1038-43. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(99)90057-6.


Objective: To study from a societal viewpoint the cost-effectiveness of adjuvant treatment for patients with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) of one upper extremity.

Design: A two-center randomized clinical trial comparing pairwise physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and control treatment (CT).

Patients: One hundred thirty-five patients with RSD for less than 1 year participated.

Interventions: PT and OT were given according to protocols. For CT, services by social workers were offered.

Main outcome measures: The Impairment-level Sum Score (ISS), the modified Greentest, and the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP) were used to determine effectiveness. Real medical costs, nonmedical costs, and productivity costs were distinguished and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated. Sensitivity analyses were performed on cost estimates.

Results: The ISS, but not the Greentest and SIP, showed a significant difference between PT versus OT and CT. The mean adjuvant treatment costs were significantly higher for PT (Netherlands Guilders [NLG] 1,726) and OT (NLG 2,089) compared with CT (NLG 903). The mean total medical costs were not significantly different for the groups (PT, NLG 8,692; OT, NLG 13,023; and CT, NLG 7,888) (intention-to-treat analysis). The sensitivity analyses showed a moderate influence of the cost estimates.

Conclusions: PT results in clinically relevant improvement in RSD. Costs associated with adjuvant treatment are moderate compared to other medical costs. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of PT versus OT and CT were moderate or even dominant, thus PT was both more effective and less costly than its comparators.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Therapy / economics*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / economics*
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / economics
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / rehabilitation*
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / economics
  • Single-Blind Method