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Physiotherapy following elective orthopaedic procedures


Piet De Kleijn, Physical Therapist, UMC Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, Utrecht 3584 CX, The Netherlands.
Tel.: +31 30 2508450; fax: +31 30 2505438;


Summary.  As haemophilic arthropathy and chronic synovitis are still the most important clinical features in people with haemophilia, different kinds of invasive and orthopaedic procedures have become more common during the last decades. The availability of clotting factor has made arthroplasty of one, or even multiple joints possible. This article highlights the role of physiotherapy before and after such procedures.

Synovectomies are sometimes advocated in people with haemophilia to stop repetitive cycles of intra-articular bleeds and/or chronic synovitis. The synovectomy itself, however, does not solve the muscle atrophy, loss of range of motion (ROM), instability and poor propriocepsis, often developed during many years. The key is in taking advantage of the subsequent, relatively safe, bleed-free period to address these important issues.

Although the preoperative ROM is the most important variable influencing the postoperative ROM after total knee arthroplasty, there are a few key points that should be considered to improve the outcome. Early mobilization, either manual or by means of a continuous passive mobilization machine, can be an optimal solution during the very first postoperative days. Muscle isometric contractions and light open kinetic chain exercises should also be started in order to restore the quadriceps control. Partial weight bearing can be started shortly after, because of quadriceps inhibition and to avoid excessive swelling. The use of continuous clotting factor replacement permits earlier and intensive rehabilitation during the postoperative period.

During the rehabilitation of shoulder arthroplasty restoring the function of the rotator cuff is of utmost importance. Often the rotator cuff muscles are inhibited in the presence of pain and loss of ROM. Physiotherapy also assists in improving pain and maintaining ROM and strength. Functional weight-bearing tasks, such as using the upper limbs to sit and stand, are often discouraged during the first 6 weeks postoperatively. This may be influenced by the condition of the joints of the lower limbs. Attention should be given to the total chain of motion, of which the shoulder itself is only a part.

We conclude that physiotherapy management is of major importance in any invasive or orthopaedic procedure, regardless of which joints are involved. Both pre- and postoperative physiotherapy, as part of comprehensive care is needed to achieve optimal functional outcome and therefore optimal quality of life for people with haemophilia.