Relative Contributions of Abductor Canal Block and Intrathecal Morphine to Analgesia and Functional Recovery after Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Biswas A, Perlas A, Ghosh M, Chin K, Niazi A, Pandher B, Chan V.
Regional Anesth Pain Med. 2018 Feb; 43(2): 154-160.


Effective postoperative analgesia may enhance early rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery. This randomized double-blind trial investigates the relative contributions of adductor canal block and low-dose intrathecal morphine (ITM) to postoperative analgesia and functional recovery after total knee arthroplasty.

Two-hundred one patients undergoing elective unilateral total knee arthroplasty under spinal anesthesia were randomized to 3 groups. All patients received standardized intraoperative local infiltration analgesia and postoperative oral analgesics. Patients in group 1 received a "sham" adductor canal block with 30 mL of normal saline. Patients in group 2 received an adductor canal block with 30 mL of ropivacaine 0.5% with 1:400,000 epinephrine, whereas patients in group 3 received the adductor canal block with the active drug and 100 μg of ITM. The primary outcome measure was the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test on the second postoperative day. Secondary outcomes included postoperative pain scores and opioid requirements, distance walked, time to hospital discharge, and self-reported functional outcomes at 3 months.

All 3 groups had similar values of TUG test on postoperative day (POD) 2 (46 [36-62], 45 [33-61], and 52 [41-69]; P = 0.166) as well as other short-term and 3-month functional outcomes. Patients in group 3 showed a favorable analgesic profile as evidenced by 3 positive secondary outcomes. These positive outcomes were lower pain scores 12 hours postoperatively both at rest (4 [2-6.3], 4 [2.3-6], and 3 [1-4]; P = 0.007) and on movement (6 [4-8], 6 [3-8], and 4 [2-6]; P = 0.002), a lower incidence of "rescue" intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (42%, 34%, and 20%; P = 0.031), and the lowest cumulative opioid requirements for the first 48 hours postoperatively (86 ± 71, 68 ± 46, and 59 ± 39; P < 0.005, group 3 compared with group 1).

Our data suggest that there is no difference in either the primary outcome of TUG test on POD 2, other immediate functional secondary outcomes, or in global functional outcome at 3 months postoperatively across all 3 groups. Our data also suggest an improved analgesic profile in the first 48 hours postoperatively when both adductor canal block and low-dose ITM (100 μg) are added to local infiltration analgesia as evidenced by several positive secondary outcomes of lower pain scores and opioid requirements.

This study was registered at, identifier NCT02411149.

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