What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation or FCE?

An FCE is an evaluation that is comprised of dynamic work tasks such as lifting, pulling, pushing, carrying, bending, climbing, and reaching to determine the patient’s ability to complete work-related tasks. Physicians order FCEs, but insurance representatives, case managers, employers, or attorneys also can request them. This evaluation can take up to 4 hours to complete depending on the patient’s ability to complete the tasks.

Who needs an FCE?

There are a variety of patients that can benefit from having an FCE including:

  • Anyone injured while on the job to determine the ability to return to the previous job.
  • Anyone seeking Social Security Disability benefits.
  • Anyone involved in an accident who needs to determine if they can return to their previous job.
  • Anyone involved with vocational rehabilitation services to determine what abilities they have for potential jobs.

What should I expect during an FCE?

When arriving at an FCE, you can expect to meet with your therapist on a one on one basis to gather necessary information about your medical history and job requirements. It may be helpful to bring a job description with you to your FCE. During the testing, you will be asked to perform material-handling activities such as lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. These activities include lifting weighted boxes to varying heights, pushing and pulling weighted therapy sled, or carrying and transporting various weighted items. This evaluation also includes positional tolerance activities which involve sitting, standing, walking, reaching, kneeling, crouching, crawling, or grasping. Some activities you might be asked to complete during this portion of the evaluation include kneeling while completing an activity to determine tolerance for kneeling or reaching overhead at varying heights. Throughout the FCE you will be asked to report your pain during the various activities to help the therapist determine physical abilities and manage pain during your evaluation.

What does an FCE report include?

Your FCE report will include a summary of your performance on the various activities completed during the evaluation and the amount of effort put forth during the various activities. It will also include a summary of the physical abilities needed to complete tasks specific to your job and any adaptations they would recommend for you to complete the job more safely. Finally, the report may suggest any further treatment recommendations.

Greg, M., Raptosh, D., Dorsey, J., Fick, F., & Kaskutas, V. (2012). Functional Capacity Evaluation. Retrieved February 26, 2019, from https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Professionals/WI/Capacity-Eval.aspx

Adrienne Loukopoulos graduated from St. Norbert College with a bachelors of science with a biomedical concentration. She then pursued Occupational Therapy at Mount Mary University where she graduated with a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.