DOI: 10.1177/036354659001800313 ISSN:

Accelerated rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

K. Donald Shelbourne, Paul Nitz
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

To overcome many of the complications after ACL reconstruction (prolonged knee stiffness, limitation of complete extension, delay in strength recovery, anterior knee pain), yet still maintain knee stability, we devel oped a rehabilitation protocol that emphasizes full knee extension on the first postoperative day and immediate weightbearing according to the patient's tolerance. Of 800 patients who underwent intraarticular ACL patellar tendon-bone graft reconstruction, performed by the same surgeon, the last 450 patients have followed the accelerated rehabilitation schedule as outlined in the protocol. A longer than 2 year followup is recorded for 73 of the patients in the accelerated rehabilitation group. On the 1 st postoperative day, we encouraged these patients to walk with full weightbearing and full knee extension. By the 2nd postoperative week, the patients with a 100° range of motion participated in a guided exercise and strengthening program. By the 4th week, patients were permitted unlimited activities of daily living and were allowed to return to light sports activities as early as the 8th week if the Cybex strength scores of the involved extremity exceeded 70% of the scores of the noninvolved extremity and the patient had completed a sport-specific functional/agility pro gram. The patient database was compiled from fre quent clinical examinations, periodic knee question naires, and objective information, such as range of motion measurements, KT-1000 values, and Cybex strength scores. A series of graft biopsies obtained at various times have revealed no adverse histologic re action. The evidence indicates that in this population, the accelerated rehabilitation program has been more effective than our initial program in reducing limitations of motion (particularly knee extension) and loss of strength while maintaining stability and preventing an terior knee pain.

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