Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a new intensive functional rehabilitation (IFR) program on functional ability and quality of life (QOL) in persons who underwent a first total knee arthroplasty (TKA).
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Ambulatory care.
Participants: Seventy-seven people with knee osteoarthritis.
Intervention: Two months after TKA, subjects were randomly assigned to either a group with IFR (n=38), who received 12 supervised rehabilitation sessions combined with exercises at home between months 2 and 4 after TKA, or to a control group (n=39), who received standard care. All participants were evaluated by a blind evaluator at baseline (2mo after TKA), immediately after IFR (2mo later; POST1), and 2 and 8 months later (POST2 and POST3). Main outcome measures The primary outcome measure with respect to effectiveness was the 6-minute walk test (6MWT) at POST2. Secondary outcome measures were the 6MWT at the other evaluations and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index and Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey.
Results: Subjects in the IFR group walked longer distances (range, 23-26m) in 6 minutes at the 3 POST evaluations than subjects in the control group. At POST1 and POST2, they also had less pain, stiffness, and difficulty in performing daily activities. Positive changes in QOL in favor of the IFR were found only at POST2.
Conclusions: The IFR was effective in improving the short-term and mid-term functional ability after uncomplicated primary TKA. The magnitude of the IFR effect on the primary outcome was modest but consistent. More intensive rehabilitation should be promoted in the subacute recovery period after TKA, to optimize functional outcomes in the first year after surgery.