Study design: Prospective study with repeated measures.
Objectives: The overall goal of this investigation was to describe the time course of recovery of impairments and function after total knee arthroplasty (TKA), as well as to provide direction for rehabilitation efforts. We hypothesized that quadriceps strength would be more strongly correlated with functional performance than knee flexion range of motion (ROM) or pain at all time periods studied before and after TKA.
Background: TKA is a very common surgery, but very little is known regarding the influence of impairments on functional limitations in this population.
Methods and measures: Forty subjects who underwent unilateral TKA followed by rehabilitation, including 6 weeks of outpatient physical therapy, were studied. Testing occurred at 5 time periods: preoperatively, and at 1, 2, 3, and 6 months after surgery. Test measures included quadriceps strength, knee ROM, timed up-and-go test, timed stair-climbing test, bodily pain, and general health and knee function questionnaires.
Results: Subjects experienced significant worsening of knee ROM, quadriceps strength, and performance on functional tests 1 month after surgery. Quadriceps strength went through the greatest decline of all the physical measures assessed and never matched the strength of the uninvolved limb. All measures underwent significant improvements following the 1-month test. Quadriceps strength was the most highly correlated measure associated with functional performance at all testing sessions.
Conclusions: Functional measures underwent an expected decline early after TKA, but recovery was more rapid than anticipated and long-term outcomes were better than previously reported in the literature. The high correlation between quadriceps strength and functional performance suggests that improved postoperative quadriceps strengthening could be important to enhance the potential benefits of TKA.