The impact of the Belgian workers’ compensation system on return to work after rotator cuff surgery

We retrospectively assessed time off work after rotator cuff repair, in relation with the compensation system and the shoulder loading demand at work. The Belgian insurance system distinghuises three main financial compensation systems for time off work. Patients with a work-related accident receive the highest compensation. A second group includes employees suffering a private accident or a chronic rotator cuff tear. Self-employed workers receive the lowest compensation. Work-demand on the shoulder was graded level I to IV according to the Iannotti classification. From a series of 201 young patients who underwent rotator cuff tear surgery, 93 were selected based on specific inclusion criteria ; of these 93 patients, 73 could be thoroughly investigated. We found a significantly longer postoperative time off work in the highest compensation group (7 months versus 2.5 months for the lowest compensation group). We found a significantly longer postoperative time to return to work in the higher stages of the Iannoti classification. Based on the results of this study, the probable postoperative absence from work can be roughly estimated for each patient after rotator cuff surgery in relation with the particular compensation system and particular occupational demand level.


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