Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is the most commonly performed elective surgery in the United States. TKA typically improves functional performance and reduces pain associated with knee osteoarthritis. Little is known about the influence of TKA on overall physical activity levels. Physical activity, defined as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure”, confers many health benefits but typically decreases with endstage osteoarthritis. The purpose of this review is to describe the potential benefits (metabolic, functional, and orthopedic) of physical activity to patients undergoing TKA, present results from recent studies aimed to determine the effect of TKA on physical activity, and discuss potential sources of variability and conflicting results for physical activity outcomes. Several studies utilizing self-reported outcomes indicate that patients perceive themselves to be more physically active after TKA than they were before surgery. Accelerometry-based outcomes indicate that physical activity for patients after TKA remains at or below pre-surgical levels. Several different factors likely contributed to these variable results, including the use of different instruments, duration of follow-up, and characteristics of the subjects studied. Comparison to norms, however, suggests that daily physical activity for patients following TKA may fall short of healthy age-matched controls.
This study proposes that further study of the relationship between TKA and physical activity needs to be performed using accelerometry-based outcome measures at multiple post-surgical time points.