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FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Physical Therapy in the Emergency Department

How well are physical therapists doing when they serve patients in the emergency department?


I remember about 5 years ago speaking to a couple of physical therapists who provided services in the emergency department. At that time the patients presented to the emergency department with a musculoskeletal type of complaint was triaged to a physical therapist.

I read with interest this recent abstract that the patients who are treated may have more than low back pain. Physical therapists are also involved where a patient presents with vestibular complaints. Interestingly, physical therapists are also involved when a patient presents with gait disturbances. 

I was happy to see that physical therapists were allowed a reasonable amount of time to not only assess these patients, but to also spend time educating.

You'll find the abstract to the recent study below.

Physical therapy in the emergency department: A new opportunity for collaborative care.



Emergency department-initiated physical therapy (ED PT) is an emerging resource in the United States, with the number of ED PT programs in the United States growing rapidly over the last decade. In this collaborative model of care, physical therapists are consulted by the treating ED physician to assist in the evaluation and treatment of a number of movement and functional disorders, such as low back pain, peripheral vertigo, and various gait disturbances. Patients receiving ED PT benefit from the physical therapist's expertise in musculoskeletal and vestibular conditions and from the individualized attention provided in a typical bedside evaluation and treatment session, which includes education on expected symptom trajectory, recommendations for activity modulation, and facilitated outpatient follow-up. Early data suggest that both physicians and patients view ED PT services favorably, and that ED PT is associated with improvement of several important clinical and operational outcomes. Hospital systems interested in building their own ED PT program may benefit from the key steps outlined in this review, as well as a summary of the typical clinical volumes and practice patterns encountered at existing programs around the country.

 2018 May 24. pii: S0735-6757(18)30432-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2018.05.053. [Epub ahead of print]

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