Symptomatic cervical disc herniation following a motor vehicle collision: Return to work comparative study of workers' compensation versus personal injury insurance status

Gaetano J. Scuderi, Andrew L. Sherman, Georgiy V. Brusovanik, Michael A. Pahl, Alexander R. Vaccaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background context: Patients with approved workers' compensation injuries receive guaranteed compensation for the duration of their injury, whereas patients with personal injury claims are only compensated, if at all, at the time of a successful settlement or trial verdict at a time point distant from their injury. Purpose: This study compares the financial impact and loss of work patterns due to a workers' compensation (WC) claim or personal injury in patients with a symptomatic cervical disc herniation resulting from a motor vehicle collision. Study design: A prospective study of patients who were seen by a single spine specialist between 1/2/96 and 9/1/01. Patient sample: A consecutive evaluation of 531 patients who were treated for a cervical pain syndrome caused by a motor vehicle collision. Outcome measures: Mechanism of injury and insurance type, ie, workers' compensation or personal injury, was recorded for each patient as well as treatment response and return to work patterns. The data were analyzed using the two-way Z test. Methods: All patients were managed in a similar manner with noninvasive treatment initially, followed by injections, and finally surgical intervention in those who failed conservative measures. Return to work rates and work disability were determined at either final follow-up or at the last doctor's visit before loss to follow-up. Results: 270 of 531 patients were diagnosed with a symptomatic one or two level disc herniation by a cervical magnetic resonance imaging scan. Fifty-four patients were insured through the workers' compensation board, and 216 reported their crash as a personal injury claim. In the WC group the work disability at 3 months follow-up revealed a cumulative 2,262 total lost days of work (average 37.1 days per person). At the point of maximal medical improvement (MMI) or 2-year follow-up, total days lost from work were 7,107 (average 131.6 days per person.) In the personal injury non-WC group, the 3-month follow-up of lost days of work was 1,093 days (average 5.1 days per person.) At 2 years follow-up, the total lost days of work were 6,206 (average 28.7 days per person.) Conclusions: Participants compensated through the workers' compensation system demonstrated a significant loss of days of work as compared with injured patients who received compensation by other means. This may be a reflection of the guaranteed method of compensation afforded to WC patients as opposed to patients who receive no form of financial support (ie, personal injury) during the recuperative process. Further analysis as to injury severity and a stratification of non-workers' compensation reimbursement methods are needed to further improve the validity of this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-644
Number of pages6
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005


  • Cervical disc herniation
  • Days lost from work
  • Motor vehicle collision
  • Personal injury
  • Private insurance
  • Workers' compensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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