Loss of knee-extension strength is related to knee swelling after total knee arthroplasty

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Nov;91(11):1770-6. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2010.07.229.


Objective: To examine whether changes in knee-extension strength and functional performance are related to knee swelling after total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Design: Prospective, descriptive, hypothesis-generating study.

Setting: A fast-track orthopedic arthroplasty unit at a university hospital.

Participants: Patients (N=24; mean age, 66y; 13 women) scheduled for primary unilateral TKA were investigated 1 week before surgery and on the day of hospital discharge 2.4 days postsurgery.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: We assessed all patients for knee-joint circumference, knee-extension strength, and functional performance using the Timed Up & Go, 30-second Chair Stand, and 10-m fast speed walking tests, together with knee pain during all active test procedures.

Results: All investigated variables changed significantly from pre- to postsurgery independent of knee pain. Importantly, knee circumference increased (knee swelling) and correlated significantly with the decrease in knee-extension strength (r=-.51; P=.01). Reduced fast-speed walking correlated significantly with decreased knee-extension strength (r=.59; P=.003) and decreased knee flexion (r=.52; P=.011). Multiple linear regression showed that knee swelling (P=.023), adjusted for age and sex, could explain 27% of the decrease in knee-extension strength. Another model showed that changes in knee-extension strength (P=.009) and knee flexion (P=.018) were associated independently with decreased performance in fast-speed walking, explaining 57% of the variation in fast-speed walking.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the well-known finding of decreased knee-extension strength, which decreases functional performance shortly after TKA, is caused in part by postoperative knee swelling. Future studies may look at specific interventions aimed at decreasing knee swelling postsurgery to preserve knee-extension strength and facilitate physical rehabilitation after TKA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / adverse effects*
  • Edema / complications
  • Edema / physiopathology*
  • Edema / rehabilitation
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle Strength Dynamometer
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Muscle Weakness / physiopathology
  • Muscle Weakness / rehabilitation
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / surgery*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology*