An investigation to establish the flexor tendon rehabilitation protocol use amongst Occupational Therapists in South Africa.
The aim of this study was to investigate which protocols Occupational Therapists (OT’s) use when rehabilitating clients after flexor tendon repairs, and to investigate the therapist’s knowledge regarding these protocols, to guide therapists and institutions in using effective methods within the South African context. A questionnaire was sent to OT’s in South Africa. Of the 32 responses, 50% had more than 10 years experience and 50%, less experience. 81.2% were private practitioners and 28% worked in government. The trend of protocol use was as follows: 18.8% used a Duran-type passive mobilization protocol, 25% used a Kleinert-type protocol - a passive flexion protocol (but labelled an active mobilization protocol in literature as it allows active extension of the fingers), 28.1% used Early Active Mobilization and 3.1% used an Immobilization-type protocol. 64.5% of the sample used static splints, 9.7% used dynamic splints and 25.8% used a combination. Most (83.3%) continued the splint at 4 weeks but only 26.6% were using the splint at 6 weeks. At week 1, 30% allowed active flexion of the fingers, whereas at week 4 and 5, 60% allowed active flexion. The referring doctor and confidence in one’s own skills were the main factors influencing protocol choice. Resources available influenced the protocol choice, which can be problematic in South Africa. Access to literature was mostly through textbooks (90.6%), although journal articles were accessed (internet - 50%, hard copy - 62.5%). More than half of the sample attended courses regularly. Most therapists were happy with their outcomes, regardless of which protocol used. Therapists need to build their confidence, realising the efficacy of various protocols is similar, according to research. Thus whatever factors influence protocol choice, they will likely not be critical to good outcomes.