2018 Arthroscopy Journal
Blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy is becoming increasingly popular in musculoskeletal injury rehabilitation. In particular, this form of therapy is being utilized more often in the postoperative setting following knee surgery, including anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. BFR therapy provides patients and clinicians an alternative treatment option to standard muscle strengthening and hypertrophy guidelines in the setting of postoperative pain, weakness, and postoperative activity restrictions that contribute to muscle atrophy. The ability to complete exercise in a low load environment and achieve similar physiological adaptations as high-intensity strength training makes this modality appealing. With poor patient-related outcomes associated with continued muscle atrophy, pain, and muscle weakness, some researchers have investigated BFR training postoperatively following arthroscopic knee surgery with promising results. However, owing to the current paucity of research studies, inconsistency among reported protocols, and mixed results, it may be some time before a mass adoption of BFR therapy is made into the world of orthopaedic rehabilitation. Although the current data is inconclusive, we choose to utilize BFR in postoperative knee patients, regardless of weight-bearing status, for whom maintenance of existing muscle mass or improvement of decreased postoperative strength levels is important. Therefore, the purpose of this expert opinion is to review the background of BFR, describe the clinical evidence of BFR following knee surgery, and report the authors’ current recommendations for application of BFR postoperatively.