Knee replacement patients get alternative pain relief

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Knee replacement

Scientists have developed an alternative pain relief approach that will enable even surgeons to administer the pain relief without need for specialist anesthetist.

If we look at currently used tactics, it involves administering a single dose of ‘femoral nerve block’ local anesthetic injected around the femoral nerve in the groin, which is typically administered by an anesthetist.

However the new approach can be administered using an injection around the knee joint without the need for specialist equipment. Over 250 patients having knee replacements at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) took part in the study, which found that patients who had the knee injections required lower doses of powerful painkillers such as morphine after surgery.

Morphine can cause serious and troublesome side effects in postoperative patients and is best avoided if possible. Also, unlike a femoral nerve block, there is no need for specialist equipment like ultrasound. This is therefore likely to save surgeons and anesthetists valuable time and resources and improve patient care.

A tribute was published in the article to Andrew Sprowson, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at UHCW, and Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, who had been Chief Investigator in the study until his untimely death in March 2015.

Lead author Peter Wall said, “Our study has demonstrated the advantages of injections of anesthetic agents around the knee during knee replacement surgery over other methods. These injections are now shown to be safe and effective. They also involve fewer resources and reduce the need for powerful painkillers such as morphine.”

“This is to be welcomed as the potential risks of morphine-type pain relief are well known and should be avoided where possible. We hope that these study findings if put into practice, will benefit patients around the world,” added Wall.