Is a government-regulated rehabilitation guideline more effective than general practitioner education or preferred-provider rehabilitation in promoting recovery from acute whiplash-associated disorders? A pragmatic randomised controlled trial

Publication type
Journal article
Cote P Boyle E Shearer HM Stupar M Jacobs C Cassidy JD Carette S van der Velde G Wong JJ Hogg-Johnson S Ammendolia C Hayden JA van Tulder M Frank JW
Date published
2019 Jan 01
BMJ Open
Open Access?

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of a government-regulated rehabilitation guideline compared with education and activation by general practitioners, and to a preferred-provider insurance-based rehabilitation programme on self-reported global recovery from acute whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) grade I-II. DESIGN: Pragmatic randomised clinical trial with blinded outcome assessment. SETTING: Multidisciplinary rehabilitation clinics and general practitioners in Ontario, Canada. PARTICIPANTS: 340 participants with acute WAD grade I and II. Potential participants were sampled from a large automobile insurer when reporting a traffic injury. INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomised to receive one of three protocols: government-regulated rehabilitation guideline, education and activation by general practitioners or a preferred-provider insurance-based rehabilitation. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Our primary outcome was time to self-reported global recovery. Secondary outcomes included time on insurance benefits, neck pain intensity, whiplash-related disability, health-related quality of life and depressive symptomatology at 6 weeks and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months postinjury. RESULTS: The median time to self-reported global recovery was 59 days (95% CI 55 to 68) for the government-regulated guideline group, 105 days (95% CI 61 to 126) for the preferred-provider group and 108 days (95% CI 93 to 206) for the general practitioner group; the difference was not statistically significant (Chi(2)=3.96; 2 df: p=0.138). We found no clinically important differences between groups in secondary outcomes. Post hoc analysis suggests that the general practitioner (hazard rate ratio (HRR)=0.51, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.77) and preferred-provider groups (HRR=0.67, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.96) had slower recovery than the government-regulated guideline group during the first 80 days postinjury. No major adverse events were reported. CONCLUSIONS: Time-to-recovery did not significantly differ across intervention groups. We found no differences between groups with regard to neck-specific outcomes, depression and health-related quality of life. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT00546806