Predictive value of the DASH tool for predicting return to work of injured workers with musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremity

Susan Armijo-Olivo, Linda J Woodhouse, Ivan A Steenstra, Douglas P Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: To determine whether the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) tool added to the predictive ability of established prognostic factors, including patient demographic and clinical outcomes, to predict return to work (RTW) in injured workers with musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders of the upper extremity.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study using a population-based database from the Workers' Compensation Board of Alberta (WCB-Alberta) that focused on claimants with upper extremity injuries was used. Besides the DASH, potential predictors included demographic, occupational, clinical and health usage variables. Outcome was receipt of compensation benefits after 3 months. To identify RTW predictors, a purposeful logistic modelling strategy was used. A series of receiver operating curve analyses were performed to determine which model provided the best discriminative ability.

Results: The sample included 3036 claimants with upper extremity injuries. The final model for predicting RTW included the total DASH score in addition to other established predictors. The area under the curve for this model was 0.77, which is interpreted as fair discrimination. This model was statistically significantly different than the model of established predictors alone (p<0.001). When comparing the DASH total score versus DASH item 23, a non-significant difference was obtained between the models (p=0.34).

Conclusions: The DASH tool together with other established predictors significantly helped predict RTW after 3 months in participants with upper extremity MSK disorders. An appealing result for clinicians and busy researchers is that DASH item 23 has equal predictive ability to the total DASH score.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-815
Number of pages9
JournalOccupational and environmental medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • disabilities of the arm
  • prognosis
  • return to work
  • upper extremity disorders


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