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Physical Therapy Use Lags Among Older Adults With Cerebral Palsy

TUESDAY, June 8, 2021 -- Older adults with cerebral palsy (CP) and musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders have lower use of physical therapy (PT) services compared with their peers without CP, according to a study recently published in Disability and Health Journal.

Deborah Thorpe, P.T., Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues used Medicare claims data from 2011 to 2014 to compare the presence of comorbidities and patterns of PT and occupational therapy (OT) use among matched older adults with and without CP (8,796 individuals and 5,613,384 individuals, respectively) seeking care for MSK disorders.

The researchers found that in older adults with a diagnosed MSK disorder, less than a third regularly utilized PT and/or OT services. Adults with CP utilized significantly less PT than adults without CP, and for some MSK diagnoses, they had fewer visits than their matched peers. There was a greater risk for secondary conditions that influence morbidity, mortality, and quality of life among older adults with CP compared with their age-matched peers without CP.

"The results are staggering, but they support our hypothesis that people with cerebral palsy receive inequitable health care," a coauthor said in a statement.

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