Background/Objective: Upper-extremity reconstruction for people with tetraplegia is underused, and we felt that physicians' beliefs could be contributing to this phenomenon. This research sought to determine whether (a) physicians underestimate the importance of upper-extremity function for people with tetraplegia, (b) physiatrists and hand surgeons disagree on the quality of life of those with tetraplegia, (c) surgeons believe that social issues make people with tetraplegia poor surgical candidates, and (d) the 2 specialties disagree on the benefits of upper-extremity reconstruction. Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to a national sample of 384 physiatrists and 379 hand surgeons. The data were analyzed with bivariate statistics. Results: The response rate was 62%. 65% of surgeons and 49% of physiatrists (P < 0.001) ranked upper-extremity function as the most important rehabilitative goal for people with tetraplegia. Both specialties believed the quality of life with tetraplegia was low (less than 60 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing perfect health). The 2 specialties have significantly different opinions regarding patient compliance, social support, and the effectiveness of surgery. Conclusions: The majority of physicians believe that upper-extremity function is a rehabilitative priority for people with tetraplegia. However, physiatrists and hand surgeons have significantly different views about people with tetraplegia and the benefits of reconstructive surgery. Physician preconceptions and interdisciplinary divergence may be contributing to the underuse of these procedures, and these issues should be considered when designing programs to improve access to these procedures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology