Background: Total knee arthroplasty with the use of a tourniquet during the entire operation has not been shown to improve the performance of the operation and may increase the risk of complications.
Questions/purposes: We asked whether the limited use of a tourniquet for cementation only would affect (1) surgical time; (2) postoperative pain and motion of the knee; (3) blood loss; or (4) complications such as risk of nerve injuries, quadriceps dysfunction, and drainage compared with use of a tourniquet throughout the procedure.
Methods: Seventy-one patients (79 knees) were randomized to either use of a tourniquet from the incision through cementation of the implants and deflated for closure (operative tourniquet group) or tourniquet use only during cementation (cementation tourniquet group). The initial study population was a minimum of 30 knees in each group as suggested for randomized studies by American Society for Testing and Materials standards; termination of the study was determined by power analysis performed after 40 knees in each group showed any statistical solution to our questions would require a minimum of 260 more cases. Patients were excluded who were considered in previous randomized studies as high risk for complications, which might be attributed to the tourniquet.
Results: There were no differences in terms of surgical time, pain scores, pain medicine requirements, range of motion, hemoglobin change, or total blood loss. One major complication (compartmental syndrome) occurred in a patient with tourniquet inflation until closure. No other complications were attributed to the use of a tourniquet.
Conclusions: With the numbers available, our results suggest that there are no important clinical differences between patients who had a tourniquet inflated throughout the procedure compared with those who had it inflated only during cementation. Tourniquet inflation for cementation only provides the benefit of bloodless bone for fixation and may eliminate the risks associated with prolonged tourniquet use.