Objectives: To better understand how immobilization and surgery affect muscle size and function in the elderly and to identify effective training regimes.
Design: A prospective randomized, controlled study.
Setting: Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Participants: Thirty-six patients (aged 60–86) scheduled for unilateral hip replacement due to primary hip osteoarthrosis.
Intervention: Patients were randomized to standard home-based rehabilitation (1 h/d × 12 weeks), unilateral neuromuscular electrical stimulation of the operated side (1 h/d × 12 weeks), or unilateral resistance training of the operated side (3/wk × 12 weeks).
Measurements: Hospital length of stay (LOS), quadriceps muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), isokinetic muscle strength, and functional performance. Patients were tested presurgery and 5 and 12 weeks postsurgery
Results: Mean±standard error LOS was shorter for the resistance training group (10.0±2.4 days, P<.05) than for the standard rehabilitation group (16.0±7.2 days). Resistance training, but not electrical stimulation or standard rehabilitation, resulted in increased CSA (12%, P<.05) and muscle strength (22–28%, P<.05). Functional muscle performance increased after resistance training (30%, P<.001) and electrical stimulation (15%, P<.05) but not after standard rehabilitation.
Conclusion: Postoperative resistance training effectively increased maximal muscle strength, muscle mass, and muscle function more than a standard rehabilitation regime. Furthermore, it markedly reduced LOS in elderly postoperative patients.