How Accurate Is Partial Weightbearing?

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The accuracy of partial weightbearing was assessed in six healthy volunteers and 23 patients who had sustained either a fracture of a lower limb or surgery. They were trained to weightbear partially using the conventional bathroom scale method and were assessed in a gait laboratory using force platforms. The amount of weight exerted on the involved limb during three-point crutch walking was determined. Four of six volunteers exerted a mean of 27% of body weight more than required. The remaining two volunteers exerted a mean of 8.5% of body weight less than required. Of the 23 patients, 21 exerted a mean of 35.3% of body weight more than that prescribed and two patients exerted a mean of 11.97% of body weight less than that prescribed. In both groups there was little relationship between the weightbearing prescribed and actual weightbearing. None of the patients or volunteers was able to reproduce the extent of partial weightbearing for which they were trained using the bathroom scale method, confirming that this technique of instructing patients in partial weightbearing is inaccurate.

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