Study examines if Apple Watch app can help patients recover from knee surgery

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Mobile app may help patients recover from knee surgery
A new study is looking at how an app on the Apple Watch can help patients recover from knee joint replacement surgery.

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- More and more Americans are getting knee joint replacements.

Experts say the most crucial part of a successful outcome is the physical therapy you do after surgery.

Now, one local doctor is trying to find out if wearing an Apple watch can lead to a better recovery.

One patient trying out the experiment is Rod Mann. He's about to undergo a knee joint replacement. But instead of getting a referral for post-surgery physical therapy, his doctor is giving him an Apple Watch and an experimental app.

"There's a whole generation of people who use their smartphones for everything these days," said Dr. Steven Barnett with Hoag Orthopedic Institute. "It's important to look at whether or not this may enhance the patient's recovery."

Barnett is launching a new study using the My Mobility app. It's a partnership between Zimmer Biomet and Apple.

"The application on the phone is very straightforward, with easy instructions and an actual video to show patients what they're supposed to be doing," Barnett said.

Rod Mann had his other knee replaced nearly three years ago. While he did well with conventional rehab, he's looking forward to the convenience of doing it himself.

"I think I'll probably get the same good outcome," Mann said.

The Apple Watch alerts you when you need to read a piece of education or when you need to do your physical therapy. It also allows you to communicate securely with your medical team.

With any form of physical therapy, patient compliance is key.

"If you don't go through the pain and discomfort of physical therapy early on you're going to develop scar tissue there and lose even more flexibility," Barnett said.

The study is enrolling 10,000 patients nationwide. Barnett is the only principal investigator in Southern California. Participants get to test drive the Apple Watch and the app for a year.

Mann believes change can be good.

"I would encourage them to try it," he said. "To more forward. Just like we do with any new technology."