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American Physical Therapy Association

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Physical Therapy

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DOI: 10.1093/ptj/pzac033


Range of motion (ROM) and pain often define successful recovery after total knee arthroplasty (TKA), but these routine clinical outcomes correlate poorly or not at all to functional capacity after TKA. The purpose of this Perspective is to underscore the importance of muscle strength and performance-based functional tests in addition to knee ROM and patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures to evaluate outcomes after TKA. Specifically: (1) muscle strength is the rate-limiting step for recovery of function after TKA; (2) progressive rehabilitation targeting early quadriceps muscle strengthening improves outcomes and does not compromise ROM after TKA; (3) ROM and PROs fail to fully capture functional limitations after TKA; and (4) performance-based functional tests are critical to evaluate function objectively after TKA. This Perspective also addresses studies that question the need for or benefit of physical therapy after TKA because their conclusions focus only on ROM and PRO measures. Future research is needed to determine the optimal timing, delivery, intensity, and content of physical therapy.


Published version. Physical Therapy, Vol. 102, No. 6 (June 2022): pzac033. DOI. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Physical Therapy Association. Used with permission.

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