We carried out an audit on the result of achieving early walking in total knee replacement after instituting a new rehabilitation protocol, and assessed its influence on the development of deep-vein thrombosis as determined by Doppler ultrasound scanning on the fifth post-operative day. Early mobilisation was defined as beginning to walk less than 24 hours after knee replacement.
Between April 1997 and July 2002, 98 patients underwent a total of 125 total knee replacements. They began walking on the second post-operative day unless there was a medical contraindication. They formed a retrospective control group. A protocol which allowed patients to start walking at less than 24 hours after surgery was instituted in August 2002. Between August 2002 and November 2004, 97 patients underwent a total of 122 total knee replacements. They formed the early mobilisation group, in which data were prospectively gathered. The two groups were of similar age, gender and had similar medical comorbidities. The surgical technique and tourniquet times were similar and the same instrumentation was used in nearly all cases. All the patients received low-molecular-weight heparin thromboprophylaxis and wore compression stockings post-operatively.
In the early mobilisation group 90 patients (92.8%) began walking successfully within 24 hours of their operation. The incidence of deep-vein thrombosis fell from 27.6% in the control group to 1.0% in the early mobilisation group (chi-squared test, p < 0.001). There was a difference in the incidence of risk factors for deep-vein thrombosis between the two groups. However, multiple logistic regression analysis showed that the institution of an early mobilisation protocol resulted in a 30-fold reduction in the risk of post-operative deep-vein thrombosis when we adjusted for other risk factors.