In this study, we assessed the influence of three analgesic techniques on postoperative knee rehabilitation after total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Forty-five patients scheduled for elective TKA under general anesthesia were randomly divided into three groups. Postoperative analgesia was provided with i.v. patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) with morphine in Group A, continuous 3-in-1 block in Group B, and epidural analgesia in Group C. Immediately after surgery, the three groups started identical physical therapy regimens. Pain scores, supplemental analgesia, side effects, degree of maximal knee flexion, day of first walk, and duration of hospital stay were recorded. Patients in Groups B and C reported significantly lower pain scores than those in Group A. Supplemental analgesia was comparable in the three groups. Compared with Groups A and C, a significantly lower incidence of side effects was noted in Group B. Significantly better knee flexion (until 6 wk after surgery), faster ambulation, and shorter hospital stay were noted in Groups B and C. However, these benefits did not affect outcome at 3 mo. We conclude that, after TKA, continuous 3-in-1 block and epidural analgesia provide better pain relief and faster knee rehabilitation than i.v. PCA with morphine. Because it induces fewer side effects, continuous 3-in-1 block should be considered the technique of choice.
Implications: In this study, we determined that, after total knee arthroplasty, loco-regional analgesic techniques (epidural analgesia or continuous 3-in-1 block) provide better pain relief and faster postoperative knee rehabilitation than i.v. patient-controlled analgesia with morphine. Because it causes fewer side effects than epidural analgesia, continuous 3-in-1 block is the technique of choice.