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Orthopaedic triage at a physiotherapist-led ‘Musculoskeletal Assessment Clinic’: a seven-month service evaluation of outcomes



A number of clinical specialist physiotherapist (CSP)-led musculoskeletal triage clinics have been established in the Republic of Ireland as a means of managing patients referred for an outpatient orthopaedic consultation.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcomes of a recently established ‘Musculoskeletal Assessment Clinic’ (MAC) in St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) Dublin. We identified the (a) number of patients independently managed by the CSPs and (b) conversion rate to orthopaedic intervention as a useful measure of this.


University College Dublin Research Ethics Committee granted ethical exemption and the Clinical Audit Department of SVUH approved the study. A retrospective service evaluation was carried out on all orthopaedic patients who attended the MAC between January and July 2012. Data were analysed using SPSS v20 using descriptive statistics.


Seven-hundred and fourteen patients attended the MAC, 54 % of whom were female; mean age 50 years (range 12–89). The majority of patients were diagnosed with low back pain (35 %) and knee osteoarthritis (16 %). The majority of patients who attended the MAC (76 %) were independently managed by the CSPs without need for orthopaedic consultation; from a valid sample (n = 110), 80 patients required orthopaedic intervention, a conversion rate of 73 %. The most common interventions were arthroplasty (22 %) and arthroscopy (16 %).


The findings of this service evaluation indicate that a significant number of patients referred for an orthopaedic consultation may be managed independently by a CSP and that onward referrals for orthopaedic consultation were highly appropriate.

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The authors would like to thank Ms. Orla Bannon (Medical Records Department) and the following consultant orthopaedic surgeons (St. Vincent’s University Hospital) for their assistance with this project; Mr. Sean Dudeney, Mr. Gary O’Toole, Mr. Conor Hurson, Mr. Kieran O’Rourke, Mr. Eamonn Kelly and Mr. Robert Flavin.

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Correspondence to K. M. Smart.

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O’Farrell, S., Smart, K.M., Caffrey, A. et al. Orthopaedic triage at a physiotherapist-led ‘Musculoskeletal Assessment Clinic’: a seven-month service evaluation of outcomes. Ir J Med Sci 183, 565–571 (2014).

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  • Orthopaedic triage
  • Physiotherapy
  • Service evaluation
  • Outcomes