After Hip Replacement, Therapy at Home May Suffice
Finding suggests that recovery doesn't have to be supervised by professional therapist in outpatient clinic
By Don Rauf
FRIDAY, March 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Surgeons often recommend outpatient physical therapy to help hip replacement patients get moving again, but researchers report that a home exercise program may work just as well.
Experts say that physical therapy plays a vital role in recovery after hip replacement. And this new study of 77 patients found they obtained similar results no matter which therapy option they pursued after receiving their new hip.
"Our research found that the physical therapy does not necessarily need to be supervised by a physical therapist [for hip replacement patients]," said study author Dr. Matthew Austin, director of joint-replacement services at Rothman Orthopaedic Specialty Hospital in Bensalem, Pa. "The expense and time required of outpatient physical therapy, both for the patient and the patient's caretakers, may not be the most efficient use of resources."
More than 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hip replacement, or arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which parts of the hip joint are removed and replaced with new, artificial parts. The surgery is intended to restore function to the joint.
For their study, Austin and his colleagues randomly assigned half of the 77 hip replacement patients to two months of formal outpatient physical therapy, with two to three sessions a week. The others did only prescribed exercises on their own for two months.
Patient progress was measured at one month and six months after the operation. Investigators evaluated them according to ability to walk, use stairs, sit comfortably, flex and other factors that gauge motion.
No significant differences were found between the two groups.
The study authors concluded that treatment for hip replacement might move away from routinely prescribing formal physical therapy.
Another orthopedist agreed that a home exercise program appears helpful after hip replacement.
"Certainly, this study has demonstrated that patients do just as well with the less expensive patient-directed exercise program as they do with the formal [outpatient physical therapy]," said Dr. Wayne Johnson, an orthopedic surgeon in Lawton, Okla. He is also an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Southwest Family Medicine Department.