Evidence of Benefit of Telerehabitation After Orthopedic Surgery: A Systematic Review

In addition to traditional physiotherapy, studies based on telerehabilitation programs have published the results of effectiveness, validity, noninferiority, and important advantages in some neurological, cognitive, and musculoskeletal disorders, providing an opportunity to define new social policies and interventions.

The aim of this systematic review is to investigate the effects of telerehabilitation after surgical procedures on orthopedic conditions as well as to describe how interventions are designed and to determine whether telerehabilitation is comparable with conventional methods of delivery. This systematic review summarizes the levels of evidence and grades of recommendation regarding telerehabilitation intervention (synchronous or asynchronous provided via the telerehabilitation medium, either in conjunction with, or in isolation of, other treatment interventions) after surgical procedures on orthopedic conditions.

Study quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scores and grade of recommendation following the recommendation of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. The authors found 3 studies with PEDro scores between 6 and 8, which is considered as level 1 evidence (good; 20% [3/15]), 4 studies with a score of 5, which is considered as level 2 evidence (acceptable; 27% [4/15]), and the remaining 8 studies had scores of 4 or less, which is considered (poor; 53% [8/15]). A total of 1316 participants received telerehabilitation intervention in the selected studies, where knee and hip replacement were 75% of all the studies. Strong and moderate grades of evidence (grade of recommendation A–B) were found in knee and hip replacement interventions. Studies on the upper limb were 25% of the studies, but only 1 study presented a moderate grade of evidence (grade of recommendation B) and the rest were of poor methodological quality with weak evidence (grade of recommendation C).

Conclusive evidence on the efficacy of telerehabilitation for treatment after an orthopedic surgery, regardless of pathology, was not obtained. The authors found strong evidence in favor of telerehabilitation in patients following total knee and hip arthroplasty and limited evidence in the upper limb interventions (moderate and weak evidence). Future research needs to be more extensive and conclusive. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first attempt at evaluating the quality of telerehabilitation intervention research after surgical procedures on orthopedic conditions in a systematic review. Clinical messages and future research recommendations are included in the review.