Background: A substantial proportion of patients undergoing lower limb arthroplasty are of working age. This study aims to identify when patients return to work (RTW) and if they return to normal hours and duties, and to identify which factors influence postoperative RTW. The hypothesis is that there is no difference in time of RTW between the different types of surgery, and no difference in time of RTW based on the physical demands of the job.
Materials and methods: Consecutive patients aged < 65 years who had undergone unilateral primary total hip arthroplasty (THA), total knee arthroplasty (TKA), or medial unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA) from 2015 to 2017 were sent a questionnaire. Quantitative questions explored timing and nature of RTW, and qualitative questions explored factors influencing timing of RTW.
Results: There were 116 patients (64 male, 52 female) with an average age of 56 years. Thirty-one patients were self-employed and 85 were employees. Of these patients, 58 had undergone THA, 31 had undergone TKA, and 27 had undergone UKA. One hundred and six (91%) patients returned to work. Patients returned to work after (mean) 6.4 weeks (THA), 7.7 weeks (TKA), and 5.9 weeks (UKA). Time of RTW was not significantly influenced by type of surgery (p = 0.18) (ns). There was a non-significant correlation between physical demands of the work versus time of RTW (p = 0.28) (ns). There was a significantly earlier time of RTW if flexible working conditions were resumed (p = 0.003). Active recovery, motivation, necessity and job flexibility enabled RTW. The physical effects of surgery, medical restrictions and work factors impeded RTW.
Conclusion: The time of RTW was not significantly influenced by the type of operation or by the physical demands of the job. Patients returned to work 5.9-7.7 weeks after hip/knee arthroplasty. Rehabilitation, desire, and necessity promoted RTW. Pain, fatigue and medical restrictions impeded RTW.
Level of evidence: 3.
Keywords: After; Arthroplasty; Hip; Knee; Return to work.