Comparison of the major intraoperative and postoperative complications between unilateral and sequential bilateral total knee arthroplasty in a high-volume community hospital

Erin Spicer, Garry Robert Thomas, Edward John Rumble
Canadian Journal of Surgery. Journal Canadien de Chirurgie 2013, 56 (5): 311-7

BACKGROUND: Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is a common surgical treatment for arthritis. In the event of bilateral knee symptoms, a patient may elect for bilateral TKA (BTKA) under 1 anesthetic or 2 separate unilateral TKAs (UTKA). Controversy exists in the literature regarding the safety of BTKA versus UTKA. We compared the rate of major intraoperative and postoperative complications for BTKA versus UTKA at a high-volume community hospital.

METHODS: We compared 373 patients who underwent BTKA with 966 who underwent UTKA between May 2008 and May 2011. Health records were used to determine patient characteristics and major intraoperative and postoperative complications. The BTKA and UTKA cohorts were matched for demographic characteristics and comorbidities with the exception of previous transient ischemic attack and previous knee surgery (UTKA > BTKA).

RESULTS: Rates of intraoperative and postoperative complications, including cardiovascular, thromboembolic and neurologic complications; deep wound infections; and mortality, did not differ significantly between groups. Bilateral TKA was associated with a greater proportion of patients requiring blood transfusion than UTKA (29.8% v. 8.9%, p < 0.001). Among those transfused, there was no significant difference between the groups in the mean number of units required (1.72 ± 0.77 v. 1.53 ± 0.85 units, p = 0.68).

CONCLUSION: Bilateral TKA was not associated with statistically greater rates of intraoperative and postoperative complications than UTKA, barring the proportion of patients requiring transfusion. Our results support the use of BTKA to treat bilateral knee arthritis in a high-volume community hospital setting.

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