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Recovering from orthopedic surgery can be difficult, especially for patients with limited mobility and strength. Thankfully, there’s a solution for these patients: blood flow restriction therapy (BFRT). BFRT can be an effective tool to use as part of a larger physical and occupational therapy regimen. And now, providers can refer patients to Inspira’s Rehab Care program to reap the benefits of BFRT.
What is BFRT?
BFRT is a technique used as part of a physical rehabilitation regimen that involves brief intermittent occlusion of arterial and venous blood flow during low-intensity exercises. This technique creates an optimal environment for muscle growth, which allows patients to make greater strength gains while lifting lighter loads—making it a suitable solution for those recovering from orthopedic surgery.
BFRT is conducted using a tourniquet on the arm or leg that’s performing the exercise. The therapist will then calculate the limb occlusion pressure (LOP) to determine how much pressure to pump the tourniquet up to. Typically, upper body exercises are performed at 40 to 50 percent of the LOP and lower body at 60 to 80 percent. “During BFRT, patients will feel like they’re wearing a blood pressure cuff—they may experience some pressure while performing exercises, but this method is proven to be very safe and effective,” said Daniel Flaherty, a physical therapist at Inspira Rehab Care.
“This is evidence-based care at work,” said Flaherty. A patient performing high-intensity training can lift 65 to 90 percent of their one rep maximum. But with BFRT, patients can do 20 to 30 percent of their one rep maximum with strength gains that are equal to the high-intensity training, or sometimes even better.
Who is a candidate for BFRT?
BFRT can be used on a wide variety of patients, including as a part of a rehabilitation treatment plan for patients who have had ACL reconstruction or joint replacement procedures. “BFRT can also be helpful in preventing atrophy in patients who can’t walk or handle heavy resistance yet,” said Flaherty.
Patients who have cancer, an infection of the arm or leg, lymphedema, an open wound, a fracture, coagulation, sickle cell anemia or are pregnant may not be candidates for this type of therapy. “Every patient is different, and it’s important for us to screen each patient before using BFRT to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for their needs,” said Flaherty.
Why refer to Inspira for BFRT?
Certified Therapists at four Inspira locations are certified to provide BFRT as part of their patients’ recovery plans. “In 2021, Inspira Rehab Care began receiving referrals to include BFRT as part of our comprehensive treatment programs. As a result, I hosted an onsite BFRT certification course of which several clinicians attended to address our physician referral base request,” said Debbie Franceschini, Director of Inspira’s Rehab Care program.
This specialized method of treatment is offered at Inspira Vineland Health Center, as well as Inspira Sports Rehab Care Vineland, West Deptford and Sicklerville. Patients at Inspira have the advantage of the latest technology when it comes to rehab care. “Our physical therapists are using the Smart Tools SmartCuffs for BFRT, which have the ability to calculate a patient’s LOP once the cuff is on their arm or leg,” said Flaherty. “Some older models require the PT to take the patient’s pulse and calculate their LOP manually to determine the right pressure setting. This advanced cuff allows us to provide more accurate and effective care.”