DOI: 10.1002/msc.1862 ISSN: 1478-2189

A standardised method for improving the readability of patient education materials for total hip & knee arthroplasty patients

John Baumann, Samuel Marshall, John O’Malley, Steven DeFroda
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Chiropractics
  • Rheumatology



Orthopaedic Patient Education Materials (PEMs) related to total hip and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) have repeatedly been shown to not meet American Medical Association and National Institutes of Health recommendations for readability. PEMs that are written with too much complexity limit the ability of some readers to comprehend the material. These complex PEMs also limit the health literacy of patients, a key determinant of health status and outcomes. The purpose of this study was to improve the readability of total hip and TKA‐related PEMs by limiting the use of sentences with ≥15 words and limiting the use of words with ≥ three syllables.


The readability of all 26 PEMs in this study was assessed before and after editing. Editing of articles included limiting the use of sentences with ≥15 words and limiting the use of words with ≥three syllables while preserving PEM content.


A total of 26 PEMs were available for use in this study after the application of inclusion and exclusion criteria. The percentage of original PEMs at or below the recommended sixth‐grade reading level was 0% (0 out of 26), while the percentage of edited PEMs at or below the sixth‐grade reading level was 50% (13 out of 26).


Using this standardised method for reducing sentence length to <15 words and limiting the use of words with >2 syllables, while preserving key content, significantly improved the readability of PEMs related to total hip and TKA.

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