Predictive validity of a customized functional capacity evaluation in patients with musculoskeletal disorders

David Bühne*, Torsten Alles, Christian Hetzel, Marco Streibelt, Ingo Froböse, Matthias Bethge

*Corresponding author for this work


Purpose: To examine whether the performance-based work-related functional capacity evaluation (German title: Einschätzung körperlicher Leistungsfähigkeiten bei arbeitsbezogenen Aktivitäten—ELA) can predict return to work (RTW) in patients with musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Methods: A multicenter cohort study was conducted on 162 employed or self-employed patients with various injury-related and chronic MSD, recruited from four outpatient rehabilitation clinics. Patient-reported data on health and work ability were collected at discharge. The FCE test was performed subsequently. The overall FCE-based estimation of the ability to cope with the physical demands of work (positive vs. negative) was used to predict RTW. Successful RTW was defined as a combination of (self-)employment at the 3-month follow-up and a low level of sick leave (< 1.5 weeks) due to MSD. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using logistic regression models to evaluate the predictive validity of the adjusted FCE results. Results: Based on the FCE test, 82% of the patients were estimated as being able to cope with the physical demands of work. 77% of the patients with a positive FCE outcome returned to work (positive predictive value) and 83% with a negative FCE outcome did not (negative predictive value). Patients whose functional capacity was estimated to match the job demands were associated with sixfold higher odds of returning to work after adjusting for patient-reported data on health and work ability. The agreement between the FCE result and RTW differed only on a low to moderate level between the therapists who administered the FCE (72–89%). Conclusion: The FCE test at discharge predicts RTW among patients with musculoskeletal disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)635-643
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.07.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)


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