Blood Flow Restriction Therapy for Use After Extremity Fracture: A Critically Appraised Topic

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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  • 1 School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD, USA
  • | 2 United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, USA
  • | 3 Special Warfare Human Performance Squadron, Lackland, TX, USA
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Clinical Scenario: Blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy has emerged as a viable treatment option to enhance clinical recovery in patients with primarily muscular injuries. However, BFR therapy has been rarely investigated in patients with osseous injuries to include extremity fracture. Focused Clinical Question: Does BFR-enhanced therapy improve clinical outcomes in patients during the acute to subacute rehabilitation period after extremity fracture? Summary of Key Findings: (1) In cases of 2 high-performing athletes with talus and osteochondral fracture of the knee, BFR was well tolerated and an effective rehabilitation regimen. (2) In 2 randomized controlled trials evaluating BFR use in patients after operative and nonoperative management of distal radius fractures, pain with activity and self-perceived function were improved in BFR-enhanced therapy as compared with a standard rehabilitation regimen. (3) Objective clinical outcomes including radiographic healing, extremity range of motion, and grip strength evaluated by the randomized controlled trials did not differ significantly between the BFR-enhanced and standard rehabilitation groups. Clinical Bottom Line: BFR-enhanced therapy may improve pain and self-perceived function of the injured extremity during the acute to subacute rehabilitation period after fracture. However, there is not yet a demonstrated benefit of BFR on hastening objective measures of clinical recovery. Large-scale clinical trials comparing BFR-enhanced rehabilitation with standard rehabilitation regimens are needed to better characterize BFR use in patients with osseous injuries. Strength of Recommendation: Two case reports and 2 randomized controlled trials provide level IIB evidence suggesting that BFR may improve pain in the acute rehabilitative stage and improve the patient’s perceived function of the injured extremity, without greater improvement in objectively measured clinical parameters as compared with a standard rehabilitation regimen.

Robertson (ianrobertson415@gmail.com) is corresponding author.

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