According to the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, surgeons will be performing 3.5 million knee replacements annually by the year 2030. This will represent a six-fold increase from 2005. The current protocol for post-operative therapy has been extended stays in an inpatient facility for physical therapy, followed up with further outpatient therapy. Because of the extreme cost associated with inpatient physical therapy, medical personnel are now looking at utilizing in home physical therapy immediately upon release from the hospital. An initial study is showing that an almost 25% savings can be had when implementing in home physical therapy rather than inpatient care.
More important than the monetary savings is the benefit to the patient. By the time a patient is discharged, usually day three or four, they have already been forced to get up and moving. But once outside of the clinical setting, they can be fearful to push themselves at home. By providing the joint recipient intensive care at home in the first two weeks following their surgery, the physical therapist is able to keep up the momentum created post-op and fit the therapy to each unique situation.
Here are two ways in home physical therapy is going to change in the near future to benefit the replacement joint recipient:
At the initial visit, the therapist with assess the home for any dangers that might cause a problem for recovery. For example, throw rugs on the floor could cause a tripping hazard. They may recommend a safety bar be installed in the bathtub. In home physical therapy allows the physical therapist to see firsthand the home's layout and what's required to function in it. This will make it easier for them to meet each patient's individual needs.
For patients with a bedroom or bathroom on the second floor, learning to safely maneuver the stairs is obviously going to be a top priority. The sooner this goal is accomplished, the quicker life can return to normal. So rather than doing repetitive exercises in a clinical setting, the therapist can help the client go up and down their actual staircase, creating confidence sooner.
The therapist may recommend utilizing the local swimming pool for low-impact exercises that can build up weak adjoining muscles, or they may go out on the golf course with the patient, or simply help with getting back to driving and going grocery shopping again. Anything to keep the patient moving, using that joint, and getting back to regular life as soon as possible will make for a happier, healthier patient in the long run as well as reduce their medical expenses.