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Good News for Joint-Replacement Patients

At-home rehab costs less, works well

Doctor examining patient's kneww

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The mean ages for both hip and knee replacements are declining.

A new study has found that joint-replacement patients who live alone and can perform a home exercise program recover just as well with home-based rehabilitation as patients who spend 10 days in a rehab facility.

The findings are significant because joint replacement surgeries are costly and a wave of aging boomers is increasing the number of such surgeries.

The study, published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that six months after knee-replacement surgery, there was no difference in pain levels, mobility or knee function between patients who went to an inpatient rehabilitation facility and those who did rehab exercises at home.

That study of 165 patients in two public hospitals in Sydney, Australia, comes on the heels of another study headed by Javad Parvizi, chairman of research in orthopedics at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which involved 769 Canadian patients who had either knee or hip replacement surgery. It, too, found that home-based rehab was just as effective as expensive inpatient rehab facilities.

Experts said the two studies, taken together, offer strong evidence that bypassing inpatient rehab for most joint replacement patients is a good way to save money — and that patients would generally rather be at home anyway.

“Half or more of the cost of total joint replacements is incurred in the postoperative period,” Parvizi told the New York Times. “Outpatient rehab is much less expensive.”