The aim of this study was to investigate the role of early initiation of rehabilitation on length of stay (LOS) and cost following total hip arthroplasty, total knee arthroplasty, or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty. Eligible studies were published in English language peer-reviewed journals; included participants that had undergone total hip arthroplasty, total knee arthroplasty, or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty reported clearly defined timing of rehabilitation onset for at least two groups; and reported at least one measure of LOS or cost. Inclusion criteria were applied by 2 independent authors, with disagreements being determined by a third author. Searching identified 1,029 potential articles, of which 17 studies with 26,614 participants met the inclusion criteria.
Data was extracted independently by 2 authors, with disagreements being determined by a third author. Methodological quality of each study was evaluated independently by 2 authors using the Downs and Black checklist. Pooled analyses were analyzed using a random-effects model with inverse variance methods to calculate standardized mean differences (SMD) and 95% confidence intervals for LOS. When compared with standard care, early initiation of physical therapy demonstrated a decrease in length of stay for the 4 randomized clinical trials (SMD = -1.90; 95% CI -2.76 to -1.05; I2 = 93%) and for the quasi-experimental and 5 prospective studies (SMD = -1.47; 95% CI -1.85 to -1.10; I2 = 88%).
Early initiation of rehabilitation following total hip arthroplasty, total knee arthroplasty, or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty is associated with a shorter LOS, a lower overall cost, with no evidence of an increased number of adverse reactions. Additional high quality studies with standardized methodology are needed to further examine the impact of early initiation of physical therapy among patients with joint replacement procedures.