Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of physiotherapy exercise after elective primary total knee arthroplasty in patients with osteoarthritis.
Design: Systematic review.
Data sources: Database searches: AMED, CINAHL, Embase, King's Fund, Medline, Cochrane library (Cochrane reviews, Cochrane central register of controlled trials, DARE), PEDro, Department of Health national research register. Hand searches: Physiotherapy, Physical Therapy, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (Britain) Conference Proceedings. Review methods Randomised controlled trials were reviewed if they included a physiotherapy exercise intervention compared with usual or standard physiotherapy care, or compared two types of exercise physiotherapy interventions meeting the review criteria, after discharge from hospital after elective primary total knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis.
Outcome measures: Functional activities of daily living, walking, quality of life, muscle strength, and range of motion in the knee joint. Trial quality was extensively evaluated. Narrative synthesis plus meta-analyses with fixed effect models, weighted mean differences, standardised effect sizes, and tests for heterogeneity.
Results: Six trials were identified, five of which were suitable for inclusion in meta-analyses. There was a small to moderate standardised effect size (0.33, 95% confidence interval 0.07 to 0.58) in favour of functional exercise for function three to four months postoperatively. There were also small to moderate weighted mean differences of 2.9 (0.61 to 5.2) for range of joint motion and 1.66 (-1 to 4.3) for quality of life in favour of functional exercise three to four months postoperatively. Benefits of treatment were no longer evident at one year.
Conclusions: Interventions including physiotherapy functional exercises after discharge result in short term benefit after elective primary total knee arthroplasty. Effect sizes are small to moderate, with no long term benefit.