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Vol. 37 No. 2, March/April 2000
Pages 179 - 188

Continuous passive motion (CPM): Theory and principles of clinical application

Shawn W. O'Driscoll, MD, PhD and Nicholas J. Giori, MD, PhD

Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN 55905

Abstract — Stiffness following surgery or injury to a joint develops as a progression of four stages: bleeding, edema, granulation tissue, and fibrosis. Continuous passive motion (CPM) properly applied during the first two stages of stiffness acts to pump blood and edema fluid away from the joint and periarticular tissues. This allows maintenance of normal periarticular soft tissue compliance. CPM is thus effective in preventing the development of stiffness if full motion is applied immediately following surgery and continued until swelling that limits the full motion of the joint no longer develops. This concept has been applied successfully to elbow rehabilitation, and explains the controversy surrounding CPM following knee arthroplasty. The application of this concept to clinical practice requires a paradigm shift, resulting in our attention being focused on preventing the initial or delayed accumulation of periarticular interstitial fluids.

Key words: bleeding, continuous passive motion (CPM), edema, fibrosis, granulation tissue, interstitial fluids, joint stiffness.

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