Comparison of home versus physical therapy-supervised rehabilitation programs after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: a randomized clinical trial

This 2005 study published by the National Library of Medicine reports that the number of physical therapy visits had an inverse effect on outcome. There were two group tested, one that did 4 visits and one that did 17 visits. Both groups did home exercises during the course of treatment. The ones that visited physical therapy only 4 times did better than those that visited physical therapy 17 times.


Background: Because of health care funding and policy changes, there is a need to examine the effects of an evolution toward patient-directed (ie, home-based) rehabilitation programs on clinical outcomes of patients undergoing anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

Hypothesis: There will be no difference in the effectiveness of a home-based rehabilitation program and a standard physical therapy-supervised rehabilitation program in patients 3 months after nonacute anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with bone-patellar tendon-bone grafts.

Study design: Randomized controlled clinical trial; Level of evidence, 1.

Methods: There were 145 patients (16-59 years) who attended a presurgery education class. Home-based patients attended 4 physical therapy sessions, and physical therapy-supervised patients attended 17 physical therapy sessions over the first 12 weeks after surgery. All patients followed the same standardized rehabilitation program. Study outcome measures included active-assisted knee flexion and passive knee extension range of motion, knee range of motion during walking, KT computerized arthrometer results, and isokinetic quadriceps and hamstrings strength. Patient outcomes were dichotomized as either clinically acceptable or unacceptable. Rehabilitation programs were compared by the proportion of acceptable patients in each group.

Results: The home-based group had a significantly higher percentage of patients with acceptable flexion and extension range of motion compared to the standard physical therapy group (flexion, 67% vs 47%; extension, 97% vs 83%). There were no significant differences between the groups in range of motion during walking, ligament laxity, and strength.

Conclusion: A structured, minimally supervised rehabilitation program was more effective in achieving acceptable knee range of motion in the first 3 months after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction than a standard physical therapy-based program.

Clinical relevance: Recreational athletes undergoing nonacute anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction can successfully reach acceptable rehabilitation goals in the first 3 months after surgery with a limited number of purposeful physical therapy education sessions, allowing recreational athletes more flexibility when integrating the necessary postoperative rehabilitation into their daily activities.

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