Persistent postsurgical pain after total knee arthroplasty is a common problem and a major reason for patient dissatisfaction. This secondary analysis aimed to investigate the effects of anesthesia (spinal vs. general) and tourniquet use on persistent pain after total knee arthroplasty.
In this secondary analysis of a previously presented parallel, single-center, randomized trial, 404 patients scheduled for total knee arthroplasty were randomized to spinal versus general anesthesia and no-tourniquet versus tourniquet groups. Patients assessed pain using the Brief Pain Inventory–short form preoperatively and 3 and 12 months postoperatively. The prespecified main outcome was the change in “average pain” measured with numerical 0 to 10 rating scale 1 yr postoperatively. The threshold for clinical importance between groups was set to 1.0.
The change in average pain scores 1 yr postoperatively did not differ between the spinal and general anesthesia groups (–2.6 [SD 2.5] vs. –2.3 [SD 2.5], respectively; mean difference, –0.4; 95% CI, –0.9 to 0.1; P = 0.150). The no-tourniquet group reported a smaller decrease in the average pain scores than the tourniquet group (–2.1 [SD 2.7] vs. –2.8 [SD 2.3]; mean difference, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.1 to 1.1; P = 0.012). After 1 yr, the scores concerning the mean of four pain severity variables (numerical rating scale) decreased more in the spinal than in the general anesthesia group (–2.3 [SD 2.2] vs. –1.8 [SD 2.1]; mean difference, –0.5; 95% CI, –0.9 to –0.05; P = 0.029) and less in the no-tourniquet than in the tourniquet group (–1.7 [SD 2.3] vs. –2.3 [SD 2.0]; mean difference, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.2 to 1.0; P = 0.005). None of the differences in pain scores reached the threshold for clinical importance.
The type of anesthesia (spinal vs. general) or tourniquet use has no clinically important effect on persistent postsurgical pain after total knee arthroplasty.
- Persistent pain after total knee arthroplasty is common and adversely affects outcomes
- The choice of anesthesia and use of a tourniquet during knee arthroplasty may have an impact on complication rates, but the effects on persistent pain are poorly known
- In a secondary analysis of a study involving 404 patients, no clinically important differences in pain scores 1 yr after arthroplasty were found between the spinal and general anesthesia groups
- In the same study, no clinically meaningful differences in 1-yr pain scores were found between the no-tourniquet and tourniquet use groups