PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to analyze in detail how knee flexion and extension progress in the first 8 weeks after primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA). The secondary goal was to compare knee range of motion (ROM) recovery patterns between patients with normal and delayed ROM recovery 8 weeks after TKA.
METHODS: This prospective clinical trial included all patients who underwent a primary unilateral TKA between February and December 2016 with weekly ROM data documented by the treating outpatient physical therapists (n = 137). Goniometry was used to measure knee ROM preoperatively, postoperatively on day 1 and weekly until follow-up at the orthopedic clinic 8 weeks after surgery. ROM recovery patterns were compared between patients with sufficient (≥ 90°) or insufficient (< 90°) knee flexion 8 weeks after TKA.
RESULTS: Knee flexion recovered from a median of 80° in the first postoperative week to 110° 8 weeks after surgery and knee extension from a mean of - 10.7° to - 3.2°. Recovery was nonlinear, with greatest improvements in the first 4 weeks for knee flexion. In contrast to patients with sufficient knee flexion 8 weeks postoperatively, the insufficient group (n = 8, 5.8%) had poor knee flexion on the first postoperative day and from week 4 to week 8 almost no improvement or even worsening of knee flexion.
CONCLUSIONS: Both knee flexion and extension recover in a nonlinear manner after TKA surgery. Poor postoperative knee function can be detected early, using ROM data from the first postoperative day up to the fourth week.