Study design: Retrospective analysis of a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of 30 858 patients being treated for a lumbar spine dysfunction in outpatient physical therapy.
Objectives: To determine effect of adding a single-item screening variable classifying patients with elevated versus not-elevated scores of fear-avoidance beliefs of physical activities at intake, on a model predicting risk-adjusted functional status (FS) outcomes.
Background: Outcomes must be risk-adjusted before making meaningful interpretations. Elevated fear-avoidance beliefs scores have been predictive of poor outcomes. But the importance of elevated fear-avoidance scores in a multivariable model predicting FS outcomes needs further study.
Methods: Using retrospective analyses, predictive ability (R2) of multivariable linear regression models of discharge FS with and without classification by elevated versus not-elevated fear-avoidance scores were compared, while controlling for intake FS, age, symptom acuity, surgical history, gender, number of comorbidities, and payer. Percent variance controlled and beta coefficients (95% confidence intervals) of each variable in both models were compared. A split-half design was used for model cross-validation. Predictive ratios (predicted FS, divided by actual discharge FS) were assessed.
Results: Adding fear-avoidance beliefs classification to the discharge FS model improved (P<.001) model predictive ability but only slightly (R2 without, and with, fear-avoidance classification, 0.2997 and 0.3010, respectively). Variables impacted models similarly (95% confidence intervals not different). Fear-avoidance classification added 0.2% data variance control to the existing model. Cross-validation was supported. Predictive ratios were 1.09 and 1.10, without and with fear-avoidance, respectively.
Conclusion: Although screening for elevated fear-avoidance beliefs of physical activities significantly improves the FS outcomes predictive model, the amount of additional meaningful interpretation of FS outcomes was minimal. Exploration of other clinically relevant variables designed to improve outcomes prediction is warranted.
Level of evidence: Prognosis, level 2c.