Decreased risk of knee buckling with adductor canal block versus femoral nerve block in total knee arthroplasty: a retrospective cohort study

Arthroplast Today. 2017 Apr 15;3(4):281-285. doi: 10.1016/j.artd.2017.02.008. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Background: Femoral nerve (FNB) and adductor canal blocks (ACB) are used in the setting of total knee arthroplasty (TKA), but neither has been demonstrated to be clearly superior. Although dynamometer studies have shown ACBs spare perioperative quadriceps function when compared to FNBs, ACBs have been widely adopted in orthopaedic surgery without significant evidence that they decrease the risk of perioperative falls.

Methods: All patients who received single-shot FNB (129 patients) or ACB (150 patients) at our institution for unilateral primary TKA from April 2014 to September 2015 were retrospectively reviewed for perioperative falls or near-falls during physical therapy and inpatient care.

Results: There were significantly more "near-falls" with documented episodes of knee buckling in the FNB group (17 vs 3, P = .0004). These patients' first buckling episode occurred at an average of 21.1 hours postoperatively (standard deviation 5.83, range 13.83-41.15). There were no significant differences in pain scores between the 2 groups at any of the time periods measured; however, patients in the FNB group consumed significantly fewer opioids on postoperative day 1 than the ACB group (59 morphine equivalents vs 73, P = .004).

Conclusions: A significantly higher rate of near-falls with knee buckling during in-hospital physical therapy was discovered in the FNB group. With increasing numbers of TKAs being performed on a "fast-track" discharge model, these results must be seriously considered, particularly in patients planning to go home the same day, to reduce the risk of postoperative falls. These data support the recent clinical data trend favoring ACB over FNB in orthopaedic surgery.

Keywords: Adductor canal block; Buckle; Fall; Femoral nerve block; Primary total knee arthroplasty.