Patients who undergo an ACL replacement have been known to suffer bone and muscle loss. A new type of therapy called blood flow restriction therapy may help to curb the loss when combined with standard orthopedic rehab.

ACL replacement and orthopedic rehab

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a main ligament in the knee. It’s most commonly torn through sudden movements in intense sports and workouts, while today it doesn’t mean a complete end to a career in sports, a torn ACL could still mean months on the bench.

An ACL replacement has become a common surgery today, and post surgery patients need rehabilitation to get back to using their new knees properly. Standard orthopedic rehab is very effective, and most patients go back to normal function and even back into sports. But the reconstruction surgery can still harbor side effects, such as bone and muscle loss. New research shows some promising outcomes for faster post-surgery results.

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

Blood flow restriction therapy is a method, often in professional sports leagues, where a tourniquet of sorts is attached to the limb that needs strengthening. In this case, it would be on top of the knee. This is put on while the patient does regular orthopedic rehab exercises. The idea is that by limiting the intake of blood into the restricted area, there is less weight for the patient to hold onto, and he will be able to work that muscle more effectively.

The new research confirms that when adding bfr therapy to the mix, there is less bone loss and patients heal more quickly, returning to regular function faster. The lead author on the study, Bradley Lambert, PhD, from the Department of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, said that “While further research is needed to fully illuminate the physiologic mechanisms responsible for our results, these findings likely have wide ranging implications for fields outside of ACL rehab alone such as injury prevention, age-related muscle and bone loss, military rehabilitation, and potentially space flight.”

How the study worked

This was a small study that followed 23 young people with a mean age of 23. All of the participants were recovering from an ACL reconstruction surgery. Part of the group had the tourniquet attached during orthopedic rehab exercise sessions. That group was shown to have low muscle loss in the leg and thigh region. They also had low bone loss, and both of these outcomes were in comparison to the control group, whose outcomes were not as positive as the bfr group.

At Hudson View Rehabilitation Center in Bergen County, your quick recovery is our utmost priority. Our beautiful, modern facility has comfortable rooms and beds so you feel like you’re in a home away from home. Our orthopedic rehab services features a stellar staff of doctors, therapists and nurses.

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