Survey of blood flow restriction therapy for rehabilitation in Sports Medicine patients

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J Orthop


BACKGROUND: Blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy has demonstrated benefits across a spectrum of musculoskeletal injuries, including improved strength, endurance, function, and reduction in pain perception. There is, however, no standardized application of BFR therapy among orthopaedic surgeons within the United States (US).

HYPOTHESIS: The indication and protocol for BFR therapy vary significantly across providers in the US.

METHODS: An online survey of 21 multiple-choice questions was sent to 3,281 surgeons listed on a large orthopaedic registry. A cross-sectional study was performed on all surgeons who successfully completed the questionnaire. Surgeons were queried on current or planned use of BFR, indications, contraindications, and peri-operative and non-operative management of sports-related injuries.

RESULTS: Overall, 250 physicians completed the survey, with 149 (59.8%) reporting current BFR use and 75.2% initiating use in the last 1-5 years. Most protocols (78.8%) utilize the modality 2-3 times per week while 15.9% use it only once weekly. Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) rehabilitation was the most reported indication for initiating BFR therapy (95.7%) along with medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction (70.2%), multiligamentous knee reconstruction (68.8%), meniscus repair (62.4%), collateral ligament reconstruction (50.4%), Achilles tendon repairs (30.5%), and meniscectomy (27%). Only 36.5% reported using BFR after upper extremity procedures, such as distal biceps repair (19.7%), ulnar collateral ligament elbow reconstruction (17%), rotator cuff (16.8%), and shoulder labrum repair (15.3%). For non-operative injuries, 65.8% of surgeons utilized BFR. Of those not currently using BFR therapy, 33.3% intended to implement its use in the future.

CONCLUSION: BFR therapy has increased in popularity with most physicians implementing its use in the last 5 years. BFR was commonly utilized after ACLR.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: BFR allows light-load resistance to simulate high-intensity resistance training. This study describes US orthopaedic surgeons' common practice patterns and patient populations that utilize BFR therapy.

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