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Lu YT, Haase SC, Chung TT, Chung KC, Sears ED. The Impact of Pre-Referral Advanced Diagnostic Testing on Wait Time to See a Hand Surgeon for Common Upper-Extremity Conditions. The Journal of hand surgery. 2019 Dec 1; 44(12):1013-1020.e2.
PURPOSE: We sought to evaluate the use of pre- and post-referral advanced diagnostic testing among patients with 3 common hand conditions, rates of subsequent tests, and differences in wait time to see a hand surgeon. METHODS: We analyzed a single academic tertiary care center administrative database of encounters from 2006 to 2015 to identify adult patients who were referred to a hand surgeon for 3 conditions (carpal tunnel syndrome [CTS], soft tissue masses [STM], and joint pain [JP]). We recorded patient characteristics, use and timing of diagnostic tests, and wait time for the initial hand surgeon evaluation. RESULTS: Among patients who received advanced diagnostic tests before the surgeon evaluation, CTS patients had the highest rate of receiving pre-referral advanced testing (53.4%) compared with JP (10.6% ) and STM patients (5.8%). The CTS patients had the highest rates of repeat testing (19.5%) compared with patients with JP (1.4%) and STM (0%). Across all 3 conditions, patients who received pre-referral advanced testing waited an additional 19 to 94 days to see a surgeon, compared with patients who received only post-referral testing or no testing. CONCLUSIONS: Use of pre-referral advanced diagnostic tests is associated with an increased time to see a hand surgeon for common hand conditions. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Hand surgeons should have a role in identifying patients who do or do not benefit from advanced testing before referral to ensure that tests ordered before consultation are useful to both patients and treating surgeons.