Objective: To compare outcomes between land-based and water-based exercise programs delivered in the early subacute phase up to 6 months after total knee replacement (TKR).
Methods: Two weeks after surgery (baseline), 102 patients were randomized to participate in either land-based (n = 49) or water-based (n = 53) exercise classes. Treatment parameters were guided by current clinical practice protocols. Therefore, each study arm involved 1-hour sessions twice a week for 6 weeks, with patient-determined exercise intensity. Session attendance was recorded. Outcomes were measured at baseline and at 8 and 26 weeks postsurgery. Outcomes included distance on the 6-Minute Walk test, stair climbing power (SCP), the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) Osteoarthritis Index (n = 85 English-proficient patients), visual analog scale for joint pain, passive knee range of motion, and knee edema (circumference). Planned orthogonal contrasts, with an intent-to-treat approach, were used to analyze the effects of time and time-group interactions.
Results: Compliance in both groups was excellent with 81% attending 8 or more sessions. Loss to followup was 5%. Significant improvements were observed across time in all outcomes at 8 weeks, with further improvements evident in all variables (except WOMAC pain) at 26 weeks. Minor between-group differences were evident for 4 outcomes (SCP, WOMAC stiffness, WOMAC function, and edema) but these appear clinically insignificant.
Conclusion: A short-term, clinically pragmatic program of either land-based or water-based rehabilitation delivered in the early phase after TKR was associated with comparable outcomes at the end of the program and up to 26 weeks postsurgery.