A multicenter, randomized, triple-masked, placebo-controlled trial of the effect of ambulatory continuous femoral nerve blocks on discharge-readiness following total knee arthroplasty in patients on general orthopaedic wards

Pain. 2010 Sep;150(3):477-484. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.05.028. Epub 2010 Jun 22.


A continuous femoral nerve block (cFNB) involves the percutaneous insertion of a catheter adjacent to the femoral nerve, followed by a local anesthetic infusion, improving analgesia following total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Portable infusion pumps allow infusion continuation following hospital discharge, raising the possibility of decreasing hospitalization duration. We therefore used a multicenter, randomized, triple-masked, placebo-controlled study design to test the primary hypothesis that a 4-day ambulatory cFNB decreases the time until each of three predefined readiness-for-discharge criteria (adequate analgesia, independence from intravenous opioids, and ambulation 30m) are met following TKA compared with an overnight inpatient-only cFNB. Preoperatively, all patients received a cFNB with perineural ropivacaine 0.2% from surgery until the following morning, at which time they were randomized to either continue perineural ropivacaine (n=39) or switch to normal saline (n=38). Patients were discharged with their cFNB and portable infusion pump as early as postoperative day 3. Patients who were given 4 days of perineural ropivacaine attained all three criteria in a median (25th-75th percentiles) of 47 (29-69)h, compared with 62 (45-79)h for those of the control group (Estimated ratio=0.80, 95% confidence interval: 0.66-1.00; p=0.028). Compared with controls, patients randomized to ropivacaine met the discharge criterion for analgesia in 20 (0-38) versus 38 (15-64)h (p=0.009), and intravenous opioid independence in 21 (0-37) versus 33 (11-50)h (p=0.061). We conclude that a 4-day ambulatory cFNB decreases the time to reach three important discharge criteria by an estimated 20% following TKA compared with an overnight cFNB, primarily by improving analgesia.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • Amides / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Femoral Nerve / drug effects
  • Femoral Nerve / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / therapeutic use
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Patient Discharge
  • Ropivacaine
  • Time Factors


  • Amides
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Morphine
  • Ropivacaine