Walking as a Sign of Recovery After Total Hip Replacement

Besides reducing hip pain, many patients hope to walk better after a total hip replacement (THR). We know that overall function is closely linked to the ability to walk during daily activities. In this study from the Netherlands, researchers looked for a way to test gait (walking) recovery after THR.

All patients expecting to have a THR were tested six weeks before the surgery. There were three parts to the test. Patients walked 20 meters at three different speeds (regular pace, fast, slow) while counting backwards from 50 by threes. Adding a mental task helps measure the ability to walk and do something else at the same time.

Everyone was retested six months after surgery. This time frame was used because many studies show that most of the improvement in walking comes in the first six months after the THR. A computer program was used to analyze walking speed, step length, and endurance.

The authors report significant improvement in all three measures of speed, step length, and endurance. Everyone could walk farther in six minutes after the surgery compared to before.

Half the group had additional support. They watched a video and received telephone calls to give them extra information. This group did not have better results compared with the group who did not receive the extra attention.

This study confirms the benefit of using a three-part test to measure gait recovery after THR. This test gives better results than just using one test to measure walking at the patient’s preferred pace. Assessing gait at different speeds should be part of the before and after testing with THR patients.