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Prospective Comparison of Postoperative Pain and Opioid Consumption Between Primary Repair and Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

BACKGROUND: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (ACLR) is associated with postoperative pain and necessitates using perioperative nerve blocks and multimodal analgesic plans.

PURPOSE: To assess postoperative pain and daily opioid use after ACL repair versus ACLR and to assess whether ACL repair could be performed successfully without using long-acting nerve blocks.

STUDY DESIGN: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

METHODS: All eligible patients who underwent ACL surgery between 2019 and 2022 were prospectively enrolled. Patients were treated with primary repair if proximal tears with sufficient tissue quality were present; otherwise, they underwent single-bundle ACLR with either hamstring tendon or quadriceps tendon autograft. The patients were divided into 3 groups: ACLR with adductor canal nerve block (up to 20 mL of 0.25% bupivacaine with 2 mg dexamethasone), primary repair with nerve block, and primary repair without nerve block. Pain visual analog scale and number of opioids used were recorded during the first 14 postoperative days (PODs). Furthermore, patients completed the Quality of Recovery-15 (QoR-15) survey, and range of motion was assessed. Group differences were compared using Mann-Whitney U test and chi-square test.

RESULTS: Seventy-eight patients were included: 30 (39%) underwent ACLR, 19 (24%) ACL repair with nerve block, and 29 (37%) ACL repair without nerve block. Overall, the ACL repair group used significantly fewer opioids than the ACLR group on POD 1 (1 vs 3, P = .027) and POD 2 (1 vs 3, P = .014) while also using fewer opioids in total (3 vs 8, P = .038). This difference was even more marked when only analyzing those patients who received postoperative nerve blocks (1 vs 8, P = .029). Repair patients had significantly higher QoR-15 scores throughout the first postoperative week, and they had greater range of motion (all P < .05). There were no significant differences in pain scores, opioid usage, or QoR-15 scores between patients who underwent repair with versus without nerve block.

CONCLUSION: The ACL repair group experienced less postoperative pain during the first 2 weeks after surgery and used significantly fewer opioids than the ACLR group. Furthermore, they had improved knee function and higher recovery quality than patients who underwent ACLR during the initial postoperative period. Postoperative nerve blocks may not be necessary after ACL repair.

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