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Can Activity Trackers Assist with Recovery After Knee or Hip Arthroplasty?

activitytrackerCommercial wrist-worn activity monitors, like those by Fitbit or Garmin, have the potential to accurately assess activity levels and have been gaining popularity in the last few years. In a 2018 study published in The Journal of Arthroplasty, researchers set out to determine if feedback from activity monitors can improve activity levels after total hip arthroplasty or total knee arthroplasty.

To conduct this study, 163 people undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty or total hip arthroplasty were randomized into two groups. Subjects in the study received an activity tracker with the step display obscured two weeks before surgery and completed patient-reported outcome measures. On the day after surgery, participants were randomized into either the “feedback group” or the “no feedback group”. The feedback group was able to view their daily step count and was given a daily step goal. Those in the no feedback group wore the device with the display obscured for two weeks after surgery and did not receive a formal step goal, but were also able to see their daily step count after those two weeks were up.

Average steps taken by both groups were monitored at one, two, and six weeks, and again at six months. At six months after surgery, subjects repeated their patient-reported outcome measures.

It turns out that the feedback group subjects had a significantly higher average daily step count by 43% in week one, 33% in week two, 21% in week six, and 17% at six months, compared to the no feedback group. Additionally, the feedback group subjects were 1.7 times more likely to achieve an average of 7,000 steps per day than the no feedback group subjects at six weeks after surgery. Six weeks after surgery, the feedback group participants were back to their pre-op activity levels (100%) and at six months, they were actually stepping more (137%). While 83% of the no feedback group participants reported they were satisfied with the results of the surgery, 90% of the feedback groups reported the same.

With mobility and physical activity being imperative to healthy aging and very helpful for recovery after total hip arthroplasty or total knee arthroplasty, incorporating an activity monitor into your after-surgery-care checklist is a great idea.

Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, is an expert in total knee arthroplasty, total hip arthroplasty, exercise and health, and more. Contact Dr. Stickney to return to your healthy, pain-free lifestyle.


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