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Results of a multimodal analgesic trial involving patients with total hip or total knee arthroplasty.

Author(s): Skinner HB, Shintani EY

Affiliation(s): Department of Orthopedic Surgery, College of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.

Publication date & source: 2004-02, Am J Orthop., 33(2):85-92

The mainstays for pain relief after total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) have been the opioids, but these medications, though excellent analgesics, have problems limiting their effectiveness. Alternative analgesics have been considered too mild for the pain caused by THA and TKA. These medications have been used in combination, but only in pairs and not in a "stacked modality." Here we report a trial of around-the-clock acetaminophen, rofecoxib, tramadol, and dexamethasone combined with bupivicaine pain pumps and on-demand opioid use (patient-controlled analgesia with morphine). Patients (48 with THA, 54 with TKA) were divided into pain protocol (PP) groups and conventional pain-therapy groups. Important variables were recorded from a chart review. In the PP groups, reductions in opioid use, length of hospital stay (TKA, P=.012), and time on patient-controlled analgesia were significant, as were improvements in pain scores for TKA. In addition, there was a trend in improved pain scores for the PP group with THA. Minor adverse events were similar for the groups, but major medical complications were fewer in the PP group. Preemptive analgesia with multiple non-narcotic medications used in a stacked modality can significantly reduce postoperative pain.

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