Pain Management for Elective Foot and Ankle Surgery: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

J Foot Ankle Surg. 2015 Jul-Aug;54(4):625-35. doi: 10.1053/j.jfas.2014.05.003. Epub 2014 Jun 18.


Pain after foot and ankle surgery can significantly affect the postoperative outcomes. We performed a systematic review of randomized controlled trials assessing postoperative pain after foot and ankle surgery, because the surgery will lead to moderate-to-severe postoperative pain, but the optimal pain therapy has been controversial. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials in English reporting on pain after foot and ankle surgery in adults published from January 1946 to February 2013 was performed. The primary outcome measure was the postoperative pain scores. The secondary outcome measures included supplemental analgesic requirements and other recovery outcomes. With 953 studies identified, 45 met the inclusion criteria. The approaches improving pain relief (reduced pain scores or opioid requirements) included peripheral nerve blocks, wound infiltration, intravenous dexamethasone, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitors, and opioids. Wound instillation, intra-articular injection, and intravenous regional analgesia had variable analgesia. The lack of homogeneous study design precluded quantitative analyses. Optimal pain management strategies included locoregional analgesic techniques plus acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitors, with opioids used for "rescue," and 1 intraoperative dose of parenteral dexamethasone. Popliteal sciatic nerve blocks would be appropriate when expecting severe postoperative pain (extensive surgical procedure), and ankle blocks and surgical incision infiltration would be appropriate when expecting moderate postoperative pain (less extensive and minimally invasive surgical procedures). Additional studies are needed to assess multimodal analgesia techniques.

Keywords: ambulatory surgery; multimodal; podiatry; postoperative pain; regional analgesia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle / surgery*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Foot / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic