A wide range of treatment options are available for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. If all else fails, your knee specialist might recommend a partial or full knee replacement.
This is a highly effective procedure: according to the NHS, more than 70,000 knee replacements are carried out in England and Wales each year and the vast majority of these offer long-term relief. For most people, a replacement knee will last for at least 15 to 20 years.
But a new study in the United States suggests a way that pain control can be improved in the hours and days following knee replacement surgery.
Specialists at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, found that injecting a long-acting numbing medicine called liposomal bupivacaine into the tissue surrounding the knee during surgery may result in faster recovery and higher patient satisfaction.
The traditional method of pain control uses continuous femoral nerve blockade, with a common numbing medicine injected into the groin area, blunting the main nerve down the front of the knee. According to Henry Ford Hospital, this method uses a pain pump to extend pain control for two days but causes some leg weakness.
“Pain control came at the price of weakness and made patients somewhat tentative when walking during their hospital stay,” explained joint replacement surgeon Dr. Jason Davis.
With the alternative method, the pain scores were similar but patients had better knee function and many were able to walk comfortably within hours of surgery.
The injection around the knee itself “optimises pain control early on” without the side-effects of the traditional technique. “Function-wise, it was a lot easier for patients to move around more confidently,” Dr. Davis concluded.