A multimodal clinical pathway can reduce length of stay after total knee arthroplasty

HSS J. 2011 Feb;7(1):9-15. doi: 10.1007/s11420-010-9164-1. Epub 2010 May 22.


Clinical pathways reduce length of stay which is critical for hospitals to remain financially sound. We sought to determine if a multimodal pathway focusing on pre-op discharge planning and pre-emptive pain and nausea management lead to reduced length of stay, better pain management, and more rapid functional gains without an increase in post-op complications. A multimodal pathway incorporating pre-op discharge planning and pre-emptive pain and nausea management was initiated in August of 2007. Physical therapy began the day of surgery. Two hundred eleven patients treated over a 3-month period with the new pathway were compared to 192 patients treated in the last 3 months of an older pathway. Length of stay, VAS scores for pain, and the incidence of nausea were compared. Length of time to achieve functional milestones while in hospital and the incidence of complications out to 6 months were compared. Average length of stay was reduced by 0.26 days. VAS scores for pain were lower. Several functional milestones were achieved earlier and complications were not increased. Efforts to control nausea were not successful and severe nausea was experienced in 40% of patients in both groups. This enhanced pathway can lead to an important reduction in length of stay. Although this reduction seems small, it can significantly increase patient throughput and increase hospital capacity. Post-op nausea continues to be an impediment in patient care after TKR.

Keywords: clinical pathways; pre-emptive pain management; total knee replacement.