Web-Based, Self-Directed Physical Therapy After Total Knee Arthroplasty Is Safe and Effective for Most, but Not All, Patients

J Arthroplasty. 2019 Jul;34(7S):S178-S182. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2018.11.040. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Background: Recently, self-directed physical therapy (SDPT) programs have gained popularity following total knee arthroplasty (TKA). This study evaluated the safety and efficacy of the routine use of an SDPT program in a nonselect patient population.

Methods: This is a single-surgeon, retrospective study of 296 consecutive patients from August 2016 to October 2017 discharged home after primary, unilateral TKA and enrolled in a web-based SDPT program. Patients were seen 2 weeks after surgery and outpatient physical therapy (OPPT) was prescribed if flexion was less than 90°, upon patient request, or inability to use the web-based platform.

Results: Overall, 195 of 296 (65.9%) patients did not require OPPT (SDPT-only) while 101 of 296 were prescribed OPPT (34.1%, SDPT + OPPT). In SDPT + OPPT, 66.3% were for flexion <90°, 27.7% by patient request, 5.0% received a prescription but did not attend OPPT, and 1.0% due to inability to use the web-based platform. The rate of manipulation under anesthesia was 2.36% overall (SDPT + OPPT, 6.93%; SDPT-only, 0.0%). Multivariate analysis identified elevated Charlson comorbidity index, elevated body mass index, higher preoperative SF12 mental score, and loss of flexion at 2 weeks as independent predictors associated with the need for OPPT.

Conclusion: Web-based SDPT is safe and effective for most patients eligible for home discharge after TKA. It is difficult to preoperatively predict those patients who will require OPPT; therefore, we recommend close follow-up. It is critical to preserve these services for patients who require them after TKA as up to a third of patients required OPPT.

Keywords: arthroplasty; knee; outcomes; outpatient physical therapy; self-directed physical therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Knee Joint / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Outpatients
  • Patient Discharge
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Care