Breakthrough in knee replacement recovery

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Breakthrough in knee replacement recovery

A $29 of stationary exercise pedals has been found to be superior to traditional rehabilitation methods for knee replacement patients.

Research led by Bond University found that the simple home fitness equipment improved function and reduced pain in patients within two weeks of surgery compared to those undertaking standard rehabilitation.

There are 50,000 knee replacements in Australia every year and the healthcare cost burden is set to increase with an ageing population and rising obesity rates. Using the exercise bike instead of expensive and complicated rehabilitation programs could potentially save Australian patients at least $25 million per year.

“We were surprised that it was superior to standard rehabilitation methods,” said senior orthopaedic physiotherapist Larissa Sattler, lead researcher on the study. “Those that did the pedalling not only felt better, they could walk faster and further.”

Orthopaedic surgeon and associate professor Dr Christopher Vertullo said the study shows that expensive, complicated rehabilitation programs are not needed after knee replacement, and that a self-directed, simple pedalling program is the best approach by far for patients.

“It offers a take-home, turnkey solution which is incredibly cost-effective.

“You can buy the pedals at stores like Kmart, people can do it themselves, and they actually do better than more complicated and expensive rehab, which is often more painful in the short term and unnecessary.

“Often patients find the rehabilitation after knee replacement too hard and too confusing and they don’t know where to start.

“It’s also a worry that the rehabilitation is almost more expensive than the knee replacement itself.

“It is amazing when you consider the amount of money spent on rehabilitation that there is actually no research or evidence around what is best until now.”

The study involved 60 total knee replacement patients at Pindara Private Hospital on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The research is being published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS).

Image caption: Patient Janine Dickinson uses the stationary pedals a week after undergoing a total knee replacement, watched over by orthopaedic physiotherapist Larissa Sattler. Image credit: Cavan Flynn.

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