Postoperative analgesia and functional recovery after total-knee replacement: comparison of a continuous posterior lumbar plexus (psoas compartment) block, a continuous femoral nerve block, and the combination of a continuous femoral and sciatic nerve block

Astrid M Morin, Caroline D Kratz, Leopold H J Eberhart, Gerhard Dinges, Elke Heider, Nadine Schwarz, Gudrun Eisenhardt, Götz Geldner, Hinnerk Wulf
Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine 2005, 30 (5): 434-45

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Continuous femoral nerve block is a well-accepted technique for regional analgesia after total-knee replacement. However, many patients still experience considerable pain at the popliteal space and at the medial aspect of the knee. The goal of this study is to evaluate whether a psoas compartment catheter provides better postoperative analgesia than a femoral nerve catheter does and whether it is as effective as the combination of a femoral and a sciatic nerve catheter and, thus, improves functional outcome.

METHODS: Ninety patients who underwent total-knee replacement under standardized general anesthesia participated in this prospective randomized study. Group FEM received a continuous femoral nerve block, group FEM/SCI received a combination of a femoral and a sciatic continuous nerve block, and group PSOAS received a continuous psoas compartment block. Patient-controlled analgesia with piritramide was available for 48 hours. Maximal bending and extending of the knee and walking distance was assessed during the first 7 days. A standardized telephone survey was conducted after 9 to 12 months to evaluate residual pain and functional outcome.

RESULTS: Postoperative opioid consumption during 48 hours was significantly less in the FEM/SCI group (median: 18 mg; 25th/75th percentile: 6/40) compared with the FEM group (49 mg; 25/66) and the PSOAS group (44 mg; 30/62) (P =.002). Postoperative pain scores were not different, and no differences occurred with respect to short-term or long-term functional outcome.

CONCLUSION: The FEM/SCI catheter is superior to FEM and PSOAS catheter with respect to reduced analgesic requirements after total-knee replacement, but functional outcome does not differ with those 3 continuous regional analgesia techniques.

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