Early Inpatient Rehabilitation After Elective Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

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Abstract

Context

Inpatient rehabilitation after elective hip and knee arthroplasty is often necessary for patients who cannot function at home soon after surgery, but how soon after surgery inpatient rehabilitation can be initiated has not been studied.

Objective

To test the hypothesis that high-risk patients undergoing elective hip and knee arthroplasty would incur less total cost and experience more rapid functional improvement if inpatient rehabilitation began on postoperative day 3 rather than day 7, without adverse consequences to the patients.

Design

Randomized controlled trial conducted from 1994 to 1996.

Setting

Tertiary care center.

Participants

A total of 86 patients undergoing elective hip or knee arthroplasty and who met the following criteria for being high risk: 70 years of age or older and living alone, 70 years of age or older with 2 or more comorbid conditions, or any age with 3 or more comorbid conditions. Of the 86 patients, 71 completed the study.

Interventions

Random assignment to begin inpatient rehabilitation on postoperative day 3 vs postoperative day 7.

Main Outcome Measures

Total length of stay and cost from orthopedic and rehabilitation hospital admissions, functional performance in hospitals using a subset of the functional independence measure, and 4-month follow-up assessment using the RAND 36-item health survey I and the functional status index.

Results

Patients who completed the study and began inpatient rehabilitation on postoperative day 3 exhibited shorter mean (+/- SD) total length of stay (11.7 +/- 2.3 days vs 14.5 +/- 1.9, P <.001), lower mean (+/- SD) total cost ($25 891 +/- $3648 vs $27 762 +/- $3626, P<.03), more rapid attainment of short-term functional milestones between days 6 and 10 (36.2 +/- 14.4 m ambulated vs 21.4 +/- 13.3 m, P<.001; 4.8 +/- 0.8 mean transfer functional independence measure score vs 4.3 +/- 0.7, P <.01), and equivalent functional outcome at 4-month follow-up.

Conclusion

These data showed that high-risk individuals were able to tolerate early intensive rehabilitation, and this intervention yielded faster attainment of short-term functional milestones in fewer days using less total cost.

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