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Although postoperative physical therapy (PT) has long been considered essential to successful total knee arthroplasty (TKA) recovery, recent literature has suggested that unsupervised home exercise regimens may offer similar benefits to formal supervised sessions. We aimed to compare objectively measured physical function and subjective patient-reported outcomes (PROs) between primary TKA patients who received formal supervised physical therapy sessions and those who received unsupervised home exercise regimens after discharge. Six electronic databases were queried to identify randomized controlled trials comparing supervised physical therapy to unsupervised home exercise regimens in primary TKA patients after discharge. Outcomes of interest included change from baseline in objective measures (knee flexion range of motion (ROM), lower extremity strength, and aerobic capacity) and PROs (physical function and quality of life scores). These outcomes were subdivided into short-term (surgery; closest data point to three months is used if multiple measurements were made in this time period) and long-term (≥6 months from surgery; closest data point to 12 months is used if multiple measurements were made in this time period) assessments. A total of 1,884 cases performed in 11 studies were included in this review. There were no significant differences between cohorts with regard to short-term knee flexion ROM (p = 0.7), lower extremity strength (p = 0.6), or patient-reported quality of life (p = 0.5), as well as long-term knee flexion ROM (p = 0.7), patient-reported quality of life (p = 0.2), or patient-reported physical outcome scores (p = 0.3). A small difference in short-term patient-reported physical outcomes was observed in favor of the supervised cohort (standardized mean difference (SMD): 0.3 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.01, 0.6); I2 = 82%; p = 0.04). Formal supervised physical therapy regimens do not confer clinically significant benefits over unsupervised home exercise regimens following primary TKA. The routine use of supervised physical therapy after discharge may not be warranted. Further study is needed to determine the subset of patients that may benefit from supervised care.


This article was published in Cureus, Volume 15, Issue 2.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2022 Chaudhry et al. CC BY 4.0.

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