Effectiveness and safety of cryotherapy after arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. A systematic review of the literature

Phys Ther Sport. 2014 Nov;15(4):261-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.02.008. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Cryotherapy is widely used in rehabilitation; however, its effectiveness after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction remains uncertain. To investigate the effectiveness and safety of cryotherapy following ACL reconstruction through a systematic review, randomized and quasi-randomized clinical trials were searched in the databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, PEDro, SportDiscus, CINAHL, LILACS (June 2013). The primary outcomes measures were pain, edema and adverse events; the secondary outcomes were knee function, analgesic medication use, range of motion, blood loss, hospital stay, quality of life and patient satisfaction. The methodological quality of studies was evaluated using the Cochrane Collaboration risk-of-bias tool. Ten trials (a total of 573 patients) were included. Results of meta-analysis showed that the use of cold compression devices produced a significant reduction in pain scores 48 h after surgery (p < 0.00001), compared to no cryotherapy. The risk for adverse events did not differ between patients receiving cryotherapy versus no treatment (p = 1.00). The limited evidence currently available is insufficient to draw definitive conclusions on the effectiveness of cryotherapy for other outcomes. There is a need for well designed, good quality randomized trials to answer other questions related to this intervention and increase the precision of future systematic reviews.

Keywords: Anterior cruciate ligament; Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction; Cold therapy; Cryotherapy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction / methods
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction / rehabilitation*
  • Arthroscopy*
  • Cryotherapy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Pain, Postoperative / rehabilitation
  • Treatment Outcome