Epidural analgesia improves early rehabilitation after total knee replacement

J Clin Anesth. 2005 Jun;17(4):281-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2004.08.008.


Study objective: To compare epidural anesthesia and analgesia with spinal anesthesia with intravenous morphine analgesia for its effect on range of motion (ROM) and early rehabilitation after total knee replacement.

Design: Randomized prospective study.

Setting: Tertiary care, academic medical center.

Patients: Thirty-eight patients scheduled for total knee replacement.

Interventions: Patients were randomized into 2 groups. One group received spinal anesthesia with 0.5% bupivacaine and analgesia with intravenous patient-controlled analgesia morphine, demand mode only. The other group was given epidural anesthesia with 1.0% ropivacaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine and analgesia with 0.2% ropivacaine at 8 mL/h, maintained for 7 days. Both groups had compression stocking for deep venous thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis, urinary catheter for the first 24 hours, and duplex scanning at days 3 and 10. The spinal group received low molecular-weight heparin for DVT prophylaxis.

Measurements: Data collected included pain scores at rest, and with ROM, frequency of DVT, and patient satisfaction. Data were evaluated with Wilcoxon rank sum test for continuous variables and Fisher exact test for categorical variables. Data were considered significant at P < .05.

Main results: All 38 patients finished the study, 22 in the spinal group and 16 in the epidural group. There was no difference in demographics between groups. The pain sores at rest and with ROM were significantly less in the epidural group. ROM was better in the epidural group compared with the spinal group after day 1. No DVT was detected on day 3 or 10 in either group. No patient in either group required reinsertion of bladder catheter for urinary retention.

Conclusion: By using epidural analgesia in the first 7 days postoperatively, we achieved improved early rehabilitation due to excellent pain relief effect and an antithrombotic effect with an efficacy comparable to low molecular-weight heparin.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesia, Epidural*
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control


  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight