Hand function in patients with Dupuytren’s disease : Assessment, results & patients’ perspectives

Sammanfattning: Background: Dupuytren’s Disease (DD) is a soft tissue disorder that leads to finger joint contractures affecting hand function. DD can be treated with surgery or injection and hand therapy to improve finger joint extension and thereby improve hand function. However, this does not cure the disease and recurrence is common. Previous research on DD has shown improvement in finger joint extension and in self-reported disability of the upper extremity after surgery and hand therapy for DD. However, this provides only a limited perspective on hand function, and multiple dimensions of changes in hand function (i.e. physical, psychosocial aspects and including the patients’ views of results) have not been reported as a whole.Aim: The overall aim of the thesis was to explore hand function before and after surgery and hand therapy in patients with DD, including assessment, results and patients’ perspectives.Methods: The thesis comprises three studies: Study A was a methodological study of interrater reliability in goniometry of the finger joints. Study B was a prospective cohort study with a repeated measures design. Study C was a qualitative interview study, using the model of Patient Evaluation Process and content analysis.Results: Interrater reliability was high or very high for goniometer measurement of finger joint range of motion (ROM) in patients with DD when experienced raters follow our standardized guidelines developed for the study. Changes in hand function consisted of improvement of finger joint extension while active finger flexion was significantly impaired during the first year after surgery and hand therapy. No patient reached a normal ROM, but the majority reached a functional ROM. Sensibility remained unaffected. Patients with surgery on multiple fingers had worse scar pliability than patients with surgery on a single finger. Most patients had their expectations met and were pleased or delighted with their hand function at 12 months after surgery and hand therapy. Safety issues of hand function were of greater concern than social issues. Patients reported less disability and improved health-related quality of life after surgery and hand therapy. The three variables “need to take special precautions”, “avoid using the hand in social context”, and health-related quality of life had significant importance for patients’ rating of functional recovery. Together, these variables explained 62% of the variance in functional recovery. Patients’ perspectives of undergoing a surgical intervention process were described through five categories. Previous experiences of care influenced participants’ expectations of results and the care they were about to receive. Previous experiences and expectations were used as references for appraisal of results, which concerned perceived changes in hand function, the care process, competency, and organization. Appraisal of results could also vary in relation to  patient character. Appraisal of results of the intervention process influenced participants’ expectations of future hand function, health and care.Conclusions: Surgery and hand therapy for DD improve hand function and patients regain a functional ROM needed for performance of common daily activities. Despite the negative effect on finger flexion present during the first year after surgery, patients’ regards their hand function as recovered six to eight months after surgery and hand therapy. Measuring digital ROM in the finger joints with a goniometer is a reliable assessment method. However, from the patient’s perspective, it is not enough to evaluate results only in terms of digital extension or ROM. From their view, results of treatment concern consequences on daily use of the hand, what happens during the care process in terms of interaction between patient and health care provider, as well as their view of the competence and logistics of the organization providing the care.

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