Combined digital interventions improve recovery following knee replacement surgery

For the thousands of people who undergo a total knee replacement each year, a new technological approach may hold the key to a better recovery following surgery.

Researchers from the Kolling Institute conducted a randomized clinical trial, investigating whether a digital technology package delivered remotely was effective in reducing pain and improving mobility after a knee replacement.

Dr Vicky Duong from the Osteoarthritis Research Team said total knee replacement surgery is an increasingly common surgery for advanced, end-stage osteoarthritis.

“We know however, that one in 10 people report dissatisfaction two years after surgery,” she said.

In response to this trend, the team launched a clinical trial involving more than a hundred people, where they measured the impact of a combined digital program involving fortnightly health-coaching sessions, a Fitbit activity tracker and an exercise mobile app.

Dr Duong said we found this approach aided recovery, and patients had improved pain and greater mobility three months after surgery compared to those who only received usual care.

“Encouragingly, this positive trend was mirrored at six and 12 months,” she said.

“We also found improvements in function, activity participation and quality of life as a result of the digital program.

“For many people there is little post-operative care once a patient leaves rehabilitation, but our research indicates that delivering follow-up care with a combined digital package may give patients the support and encouragement they need to get back on their feet with confidence.

“This approach could be particularly important for rural and remote communities as the program has the potential to extend access to care and improve equity.

“We would also like to see future studies consider patient preferences and abilities.

“Some participants, especially those who were older were hesitant to use unfamiliar devices. Overall however, the approach was well-accepted.”

The study has been published in the prestigious JAMA Network Open journal.