The effect of transferring weekend physical therapy services from the acute to sub-acute setting in patients following hip and knee arthroplasty: a quasi-experimental study

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Background: Weekend physical therapy services in the acute and/or sub-acute setting may optimize postoperative recovery following hip and knee arthroplasty, though evidence supporting these services is limited. Purpose: To explore the change in patient and service outcomes of transferring a weekend physical therapy service from the acute to the sub-acute setting following hip and knee arthroplasty. Methods: This was a quasi-experimental research design nested within two stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trials. Acute weekend physical therapy services were sequentially discontinued and reallocated to the sub-acute setting in a random order from one ward at a time within the broader trial. Patient and service outcomes for participants 6 weeks following hip and knee arthroplasty (N = 247) were compared during 6 months of acute weekend physical therapy services (Phase 1, n = 117) followed by 6 months of sub-acute services (Phase 2, n = 130). Intention-to-treat statistical analyses were conducted. Results: The intervention had a negligible effect on medium-term outcomes. The only statistically significant difference observed was slightly higher ratings of “worst pain experienced over the past week” [coefficient 0.865 (0.123 to 1.606), p = .022] during Phase 2. No interaction effects were observed despite a 2.4-day reduction in length of stay amongst complex patients during Phase 2 (18.28 and 15.86 days in Phase 1 and 2, respectively). Conclusions: No comparative advantage or disadvantage was observed by reallocating a weekend physical therapy budget from the acute to sub-acute setting following hip and knee arthroplasty. Further research investigating the cost-effectiveness of these services in the sub-acute setting may be warranted for complex patients.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jun 2020


  • acute
  • arthroplasty
  • Physical therapy
  • rehabilitation
  • sub-acute

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