With a steadily aging global population, knee and hip replacement operations are only expected to increase in number. The best post-operative course of action is to have patients transferred to rehabilitation facilities, the problem here being that this is associated with significant costs. Nevertheless, intense rehabilitation after surgery is a justified investment given the benefits enjoyed by patients, according to a new study.
The analysis was undertaken by researchers from the University of Texas. Kenneth Ottenbacher, co-author of the study report, told Reuters Health that intense rehab benefited knee or hip replacement patients months after their return home. People can work towards a certain threshold during their stay at a rehabilitation facility and then build on that at home. In a way, these patients learn how to be their own physical therapists, Ottenbacher added.
The US research team reached its conclusion after studying data on 12,199 patients aged 71 on average. The subjects had undergone knee or hip replacement surgery between 2008 and 2010 and had been transferred to rehabilitation facilities after the operation.
The researchers compared data collected at three points in time to look for changes in the patients´ ability to function. One set of data detailed this ability at the time of admission for surgery and another set was gathered at the time of departure from the rehab facility. The third set comprised data collected three to six months after the return home.
A wide range of activities was covered by the functional measures, including eating, bathing and climbing stairs. The researchers scored the criteria on a scale of one to seven, with higher numbers reflecting better function. With regard to moving around, the score at base level (admission for surgery) was 1.6. When patients left the rehab centre this had risen to 4.2, and several months later it had gone up further, reaching 5.6.