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Electric Recovery after Hip Surgery

Posted on: 11/30/1999
Hip fracture is a bad break in more than one way. It requires surgery and often leads to a loss of function. The patient who gets up and moving in the first few days after surgery does the best. This is easier than it sounds when pain, loss of strength, and the effects of the injury hold us back.

There's a lot we don't know yet about treatment after surgery for a hip fracture. What works fastest to get people back on their feet and moving? What's best over the long term? Do some things work better earlier or later in recovery? Electrical current to the muscles is a good option early on. This is called neuromuscular stimulation. It can be applied while still in the hospital and used at home, too.

Neuromuscular stimulation works well after knee surgery. Now, it's been tried after surgery for hip fracture. Small patches called electrodes are applied to the large muscle in front of the thigh (the quadriceps). Electrical current is passed through the electrodes for three hours a day, starting one week after surgery. It's continued for six weeks.

Three-fourths of the patients who have the stimulation walk sooner compared to those who don't. They are able to walk without a walker, cane, or crutches earlier than those without the neuromuscular stimulation.

Stimulating the quadriceps muscle of the leg with a hip fracture works to help patients regain strength. This allows them to walk sooner. It also helps them get rid of walking aids and walk faster.

Sarah E. Lamb, DPhil, et al. Neuromuscular Stimulation of the Quadriceps Muscle After Hip Fracture: A Randomized Controlled Trial. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. August 2002. Vol. 83. No. 8. Pp. 1087-1092.

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