Post-Op Knee Surgery: Should You Stay or Go?

Total knee replacement patients sent to inpatient rehab or discharged home recovered similarly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Having to spend more time in a hospital after surgery can be an extra burden — both emotionally and financially. Some patients might do just as well recovering at home.

A new study looked at patients after knee replacement surgery and found that those who were sent home did about as well as patients who were sent to an inpatient rehabilitation program.

"Rehabilitation accounts for much of the health care costs in the first month after knee replacement," explained lead study author Douglas E. Padgett, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City, in a press release. "Clearly, it will cost the health care system much less if people can safely go home after surgery."

After knee replacement surgery, patients often stay in the hospital for several days for care and physical therapy. Dr. Padgett and team wanted to study how getting physical therapy at home might affect patients.

To do so, Dr. Padgett and team looked at more than 7,000 patients who had a total knee replacement at HSS between 2007 and 2011. These patients were 66 years old on average.

These patients answered surveys before the procedure, six months after and two years later. Results from those who recovered at home were compared to those who recovered in a medical center.

Dr. Padgett and team did not find any major differences at the six-month mark in complications like stiffness and infection between those who went home and those who stayed at a medical center.

After two years, the groups still had similar results, including for factors like pain level and knee function.

"This study confirms that patients may be safely and effectively discharged home following [total knee replacement] dispelling the notion that inpatient rehabilitation is essential for successful recovery," Dr. Padgett and team wrote.

This study was presented March 24 at the American College of Orthopaedic Surgeon's annual meeting in Las Vegas. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Dr. Padgett and team disclosed no funding sources of conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 26, 2015
Last Updated:
March 31, 2015