Objective: To determine the safety and efficacy of "accelerated" postoperative load-bearing rehabilitation following matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation (MACI).
Design: A randomized controlled study design was used to investigate clinical outcomes in 70 patients following MACI, in conjunction with either accelerated or traditional approaches to postoperative weight-bearing (WB) rehabilitation. Both interventions sought to protect the implant for an initial period and then incrementally increase WB. Under the accelerated protocol, patients reached full WB at 8 weeks postsurgery, compared to 11 weeks for the traditional group. Clinical outcomes were assessed presurgery and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months postsurgery.
Results: A significant effect (P < 0.017) for time existed for all clinical measures, demonstrating improvement up to 24 months in both groups. A significant interaction effect (P < 0.017) existed for pain severity and the 6-minute walk test, with accelerated group patients reporting significantly less severe pain and demonstrating superior 6-minute walk distance over the period. Although there was a significant group effect (P < 0.017) for maximal active knee extension range in favor of the accelerated regime, no further significant differences existed. There was no incidence of graft delamination up to 24 months that resulted directly from the 3-month postoperative rehabilitation program.
Conclusion: The accelerated load-bearing approach that reduced the length of time spent ambulating on crutches produced comparable if not superior clinical outcomes up to 24 months postsurgery in the accelerated rehabilitation group, without compromising graft integrity. This accelerated regime is safe and effective and demonstrates a faster return to normal function postsurgery.
Keywords: gait; matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation (MACI); partial weight bearing (PWB); rehabilitation.