Early aquatic physical therapy improves function and does not increase the risk of wound-related adverse events for adults post orthopaedic surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis
OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether early postoperative aquatic physical therapy is a low-risk and effective form of physical therapy to improve functional outcomes after orthopedic surgery. DATA SOURCES: Databases MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED, Embase, and PEDro were searched from the earliest date available until October 2011. Additional trials were identified by searching reference lists and citation tracking. STUDY SELECTION: Controlled trials evaluating the effects of aquatic physical therapy on adverse events for adults <3 months after orthopedic surgery. Two reviewers independently applied inclusion and exclusion criteria, and any disagreements were discussed until consensus could be reached. Searching identified 5069 potentially relevant articles, of which 8 controlled trials with 287 participants met inclusion criteria. DATA EXTRACTION: A predefined data extraction form was completed in detail for each included study by 1 reviewer and checked for accuracy by another. Methodologic quality of included trials was assessed independently by 2 reviewers using the PEDro scale. DATA SYNTHESIS: Pooled analyses were performed using random effects model with inverse variance methods to calculate standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) (continuous outcomes) and risk difference and 95% CIs (dichotomous outcomes). When compared with land-based physical therapy, early aquatic physical therapy does not increase the risk of wound-related adverse events (risk difference=.01, 95% CI -.05 to .07) and results in improved performance of activities of daily living (SMD=.33, 95% CI=.07-.58, I(2)=0%). There were no significant differences in edema (SMD=-.27, 95% CI=-.81 to .27, I(2)=58%) or pain (SMD=-.06, 95% CI=-.50 to .38, I(2)=32%). CONCLUSIONS: After orthopedic surgery aquatic physical therapy improves function and does not increase the risk of wound-related adverse events and is as effective as land-based therapy in terms of pain, edema, strength, and range of motion in the early postoperative period.