Background: Despite the enormous success of total knee arthroplasty (TKA), chronic neuropathic pain can develop postoperatively and is both distressing and difficult to treat once established. We hypothesized that perioperative treatment with pregabalin, a chronic pain medication, would reduce the incidence of postsurgical neuropathic pain.
Methods: We performed a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of pregabalin (300 mg) administered before TKA and for 14 days after TKA (150-50 mg twice daily). Patients were screened for the presence of neuropathic pain at 3 and 6 mo postoperatively using the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs scale. Secondary outcomes included postsurgical recovery and rehabilitation measures, including knee range of motion, opioid consumption, postoperative pain scores, sleep disturbance, and time to discharge as well as the occurrence of postoperative systemic complications.
Results: Of the 240 patients randomly assigned to the 2 treatment groups (120 in each), data for the primary outcome were obtained from 113 pregabalin patients and 115 placebo patients. At both 3 and 6 mo postoperatively, the incidence of neuropathic pain was less frequent in the pregabalin group (0%) compared with the placebo group (8.7% and 5.2% at 3 and 6 mo, respectively; P = 0.001 and P = 0.014). Patients receiving pregabalin also consumed less epidural opioids (P = 0.003), required less oral opioid pain medication while hospitalized (P = 0.005), and had greater active flexion over the first 30 postoperative days (P = 0.013). There were no differences in the actual recorded duration of hospitalization between the 2 groups, although time to achieve hospital discharge criteria was longer for placebo patients, 69.0 +/- 16.0 h (mean +/- SD), than that of pregabalin patients, 60.2 +/- 15.8 h (P = 0.001). Sedation (P = 0.005) and confusion (P = 0.013) were more frequent on the day of surgery and postoperative day 1 in patients receiving pregabalin.
Conclusion: Perioperative pregabalin administration reduces the incidence of chronic neuropathic pain after TKA, with less opioid consumption and better range of motion during the first 30 days of rehabilitation. However, in the doses tested, it is associated with a higher risk of early postoperative sedation and confusion.