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Study found that additional training for emergency departments in an active management approach, supplemented by The Whiplash Book, was no more effective than usual care in reducing disability associated with acute neck injuries. Physiotherapy had a modest effect in improving the rate of recovery and reducing sickness absence, but was not cost-effective from an NHS perspective.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To examine the clinical effectiveness of a stepped care approach over a 12-month period after an acute whiplash injury; to estimate the costs and cost-effectiveness of each strategy including treatments and subsequent health-care costs; and to gain participants' perspective on experiencing whiplash injury, NHS treatment, and recovery within the context of the Managing Injuries of the Neck Trial (MINT).

DESIGN

Two linked, pragmatic, randomised controlled trials. In Step 1, emergency departments (EDs) were cluster randomised to usual care advice (UCA) or The Whiplash Book advice (WBA)/active management advice. In Step 2, participants were individually randomised to either a single session of advice from a physiotherapist or a physiotherapy package of up to six sessions. An economic evaluation and qualitative study were run in parallel with the trial.

SETTING

Twelve NHS trusts in England comprising 15 EDs.

PARTICIPANTS

People who attended EDs with an acute whiplash injury of whiplash-associated disorder grades I-III were eligible for Step 1. People who had attended EDs with whiplash injuries and had persistent symptoms 3 weeks after ED attendance were eligible for Step 2.

INTERVENTIONS

In Step 1, the control intervention was UCA and the experimental intervention was a psycho-educational intervention (WBA/active management advice). In Step 2 the control treatment was reinforcement of the advice provided in Step 1 and the experimental intervention was a package of up to six physiotherapy treatments.

MAIN OUTCOME

The primary outcome was the Neck Disability Index (NDI), which measures severity and frequency of pain and symptoms, and a range of activities including self-care, driving, reading, sleeping and recreation. Secondary outcomes included the mental and physical health-related quality-of-life (HRQoL) subscales of the Short Form questionnaire-12 items (SF-12) and the number of work days lost.

RESULTS

A total of 3851 patients were recruited to Step 1 of the trial. 1598 patients attending EDs were randomised to UCA, and 2253 were randomised to WBA/active management. Outcome data were obtained at 12 months for 70% and 80% of participants at Step 1 and Step 2, respectively. The majority of people recovered from the injury. Eighteen per cent of the Step 1 cohort had late whiplash syndrome. There was no statistically or clinically significant difference observed in any of the outcomes for participants attending EDs randomised to UCA or active management advice [difference in NDI 0.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.8 to 2.8]. In Step 2 the physiotherapy package resulted in improvements in neck disability at 4 months compared with a single advice session, but these effects were small at the population level (difference in NDI -3.2, 95% CI -5.8 to -0.7). The physiotherapy package was accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of work days lost at 4-month follow-up (difference -40.2, 95% CI -44.3 to -35.8).

CONCLUSIONS

MINT suggests that enhanced psycho-educational interventions in EDs are no more effective than UCA in reducing the burden of acute whiplash injuries. A physiotherapy package provided to people who have persisting symptoms within the first 6 weeks of injury produced additional short-term benefits in neck disability compared with a single physiotherapy advice session. However, from a health-care perspective, the physiotherapy package was not cost-effective at current levels of willingness to pay. Both experimental treatments were associated with increased cost with no discernible gain in health-related quality of life. However, an important benefit of the physiotherapy package was a reduction in work days lost; consequently, the intervention may prove cost-effective at the societal level.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33302125.

FUNDING

This project was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 16, No. 49. See the HTA programme website for further project information.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To examine the clinical effectiveness of a stepped care approach over a 12-month period after an acute whiplash injury; to estimate the costs and cost-effectiveness of each strategy including treatments and subsequent health-care costs; and to gain participants' perspective on experiencing whiplash injury, NHS treatment, and recovery within the context of the Managing Injuries of the Neck Trial (MINT).

DESIGN

Two linked, pragmatic, randomised controlled trials. In Step 1, emergency departments (EDs) were cluster randomised to usual care advice (UCA) or The Whiplash Book advice (WBA)/active management advice. In Step 2, participants were individually randomised to either a single session of advice from a physiotherapist or a physiotherapy package of up to six sessions. An economic evaluation and qualitative study were run in parallel with the trial.

SETTING

Twelve NHS trusts in England comprising 15 EDs.

PARTICIPANTS

People who attended EDs with an acute whiplash injury of whiplash-associated disorder grades I-III were eligible for Step 1. People who had attended EDs with whiplash injuries and had persistent symptoms 3 weeks after ED attendance were eligible for Step 2.

INTERVENTIONS

In Step 1, the control intervention was UCA and the experimental intervention was a psycho-educational intervention (WBA/active management advice). In Step 2 the control treatment was reinforcement of the advice provided in Step 1 and the experimental intervention was a package of up to six physiotherapy treatments.

MAIN OUTCOME

The primary outcome was the Neck Disability Index (NDI), which measures severity and frequency of pain and symptoms, and a range of activities including self-care, driving, reading, sleeping and recreation. Secondary outcomes included the mental and physical health-related quality-of-life (HRQoL) subscales of the Short Form questionnaire-12 items (SF-12) and the number of work days lost.

RESULTS

A total of 3851 patients were recruited to Step 1 of the trial. 1598 patients attending EDs were randomised to UCA, and 2253 were randomised to WBA/active management. Outcome data were obtained at 12 months for 70% and 80% of participants at Step 1 and Step 2, respectively. The majority of people recovered from the injury. Eighteen per cent of the Step 1 cohort had late whiplash syndrome. There was no statistically or clinically significant difference observed in any of the outcomes for participants attending EDs randomised to UCA or active management advice [difference in NDI 0.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.8 to 2.8]. In Step 2 the physiotherapy package resulted in improvements in neck disability at 4 months compared with a single advice session, but these effects were small at the population level (difference in NDI -3.2, 95% CI -5.8 to -0.7). The physiotherapy package was accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of work days lost at 4-month follow-up (difference -40.2, 95% CI -44.3 to -35.8).

CONCLUSIONS

MINT suggests that enhanced psycho-educational interventions in EDs are no more effective than UCA in reducing the burden of acute whiplash injuries. A physiotherapy package provided to people who have persisting symptoms within the first 6 weeks of injury produced additional short-term benefits in neck disability compared with a single physiotherapy advice session. However, from a health-care perspective, the physiotherapy package was not cost-effective at current levels of willingness to pay. Both experimental treatments were associated with increased cost with no discernible gain in health-related quality of life. However, an important benefit of the physiotherapy package was a reduction in work days lost; consequently, the intervention may prove cost-effective at the societal level.

TRIAL REGISTRATION

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33302125.

FUNDING

This project was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 16, No. 49. See the HTA programme website for further project information.

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