Context: Hip fractures are common in the elderly, and despite standard rehabilitation, many patients fail to regain their prefracture ambulatory or functional status.
Objective: To determine whether extended outpatient rehabilitation that includes progressive resistance training improves physical function and reduces disability compared with low-intensity home exercise among physically frail elderly patients with hip fracture.
Design, setting, and patients: Randomized controlled trial conducted between August 1998 and May 2003 among 90 community-dwelling women and men aged 65 years or older who had had surgical repair of a proximal femur fracture no more than 16 weeks prior and had completed standard physical therapy.
Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to 6 months of either supervised physical therapy and exercise training (n = 46) or home exercise (control condition; n = 44).
Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measures were total scores on a modified Physical Performance Test (PPT), the Functional Status Questionnaire physical function subscale (FSQ), and activities of daily living scales. Secondary outcome measures were standardized measures of skeletal muscle strength, gait, balance, quality of life, and body composition. Participants were evaluated at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.
Results: Changes over time in the PPT and FSQ scores favored the physical therapy group (P =.003 and P =.01, respectively). Mean change (SD) in PPT score for physical therapy was +6.5 (5.5) points (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.6-8.3), and for the control condition was +2.5 (3.7) points (95% CI, 1.4-3.6 points). Mean change (SD) in FSQ score for physical therapy was +5.2 (5.4) points (95% CI, 3.5-6.9) and for the control condition was +2.9 (3.8) points (95% CI, 1.7-4.0). Physical therapy also had significantly greater improvements than the control condition in measures of muscle strength, walking speed, balance, and perceived health but not bone mineral density or fat-free mass.
Conclusion: In community-dwelling frail elderly patients with hip fracture, 6 months of extended outpatient rehabilitation that includes progressive resistance training can improve physical function and quality of life and reduce disability compared with low-intensity home exercise.