High-tech rollerskates help recovery after knee surgery

High-tech rollerskates help recovery after knee surgery

An innovative new take on rollerskates is proving an effective way of helping arthritis patients recover after knee surgery. The devices are being used in conjunction with an app to get joints moving in the wake of knee replacements.

The 12-wheeled skate allows patients to remain seated while doing muscle-strengthening exercises that help with their rehabilitation, reports the Mail Online. The main benefit is that no unnecessary pressure is put on the joint before it is ready.

More than 70,000 knee replacement surgeries are carried out on the NHS annually, with the majority of patients being elderly. While the usual recovery time is around six weeks, it can take up to a year for some people to regain their full independence and do activities like driving on their own.

Getting the maximum range of movement in the new knee can be a challenge, but without it, simple tasks, such as climbing the stairs or standing up out of a chair can be impossible. It’s thought that as many as 20 per cent of patients are not happy with the results after the operation and having a limited range of motion is among the most common complaints.

Up to 13 per cent of people who receive knee replacements suffer from a condition called arthrofibrosis, which is when an excessive amount of scar tissue forms in the wake of surgery. Adhesions and bands of tissue appear and prevent the joint from moving freely.

While research suggests that exercise is the best way to recover as much movement as possible, the painful nature of doing it can mean many patients give up. The Maxm Skate, which has been developed by scientists as Flinders University in Australia, is seen as a way to get round this problem by facilitating pain-free exercise.

It was invented by Dr Matthew Liptak, an orthopaedic surgeon at the university, who says it's the first innovation of its kind. Unlike conventional rollerskates, the Maxm Skate has six pairs of wheels, with the extras being at the front and back of the skate.

This allows the footwear to rock backwards and forwards as the knee is bent and then straightened in conjunction with a handheld lead. 30 minutes of these exercises on a day-to-day basis are said to improve the range of movement exponentially.

To track how the rehabilitation is going, sensors are attached to the leg and data is sent to a mobile app. When analysed alongside a physiotherapist, this can give useful feedback as to the range achieved and where improvements can be made.

Chris Wilson, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospital of Wales, told the Mail Online: “This is a very interesting concept. Exercises early and frequently enough are a problem after total knee replacement, as it is often not practical for physiotherapists to spend lots of time with each patient.

“But it is especially important to promote early straightening of the knee, and this device seems to offer both motivation for early movement and good feedback to the patient.”