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Purpose: Uncertainty around back pain management results in large volumes of patients with back related complaints being referred to orthopaedic surgeons for direction. The vast majority of these referrals are non surgical leading to unacceptable wait times (T1) across Canada. This reservoir delays not only those who are disabled with problems requiring a surgical remedy but also those who only require direction to appropriate conservative care. Physiotherapists with advanced training in orthopaedics possess skills in musculoskeletal interview, exam and Orthopaedic residents on the other hand must acquire spine specific skills in interview and exam, interpretation of radiographic exams, surgical decision making as well as surgical technique in a 2–3 month residency rotation. Our question was „Can an Experienced Physiotherapist Become Proficient in Triaging for Surgically Appropriate Patients After a 2–3 month „Residency „.

Method: Following a 3 month clinical residency an experienced physiotherapist and a spine surgeon independently interviewed, physically examined and reviewed diagnostic imaging of 31 patients. It was then independently concluded whether the patients were candidates for surgical treatment, required conservative management or whether further investigations were necessary to make the final determination. The level of agreement was calculated using Chance Corrected Agreement or Kappa values. Operational definitions were reviewed and a second group of 29 patients were assessed.

Results: The initial Kappa score was .68 (considered good clinical agreement) and the final Kappa score was 0.84 (considered virtually interchangeable).

Conclusion: A 3 month period can prepare an experienced orthopaedic physiotherapist to triage a waiting list for surgical candidates. The therapist can add value through being better prepared to direct conservative options. Expediting triage will facilitate the right person getting to the right intervention within a reasonable time frame. Addressing the backlog of referrals will also help identify the magnitude of surgical need.

Correspondence should be addressed to: COA, 4150 Ste. Catherine St. West Suite 360, Westmount, QC H3Z 2Y5, Canada. Email: meetings@canorth.org