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LSU Health New Orleans Study Reports Majority of Patients Recover from Knee Replacement Without Opioids

March 25, 2022

xray of knee

A retrospective case series study led by Dr. Vinod Dasa, Professor of Clinical Orthopaedics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, reports that more than two-thirds of the patients who underwent total knee replacement did not need opioids for postoperative pain. Results are published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Experience & Innovation, available here.

A multimodal analgesia regimen, which targets numerous pain pathways, provided adequate pain relief for 27 of the 40 patients studied. The regimen included preoperative cryoneurolysis (freezing nerves); perioperative oral and intravenous analgesics, a neuraxial (spinal) and regional adductor canal block, and local infiltration of liposomal bupivacaine (Exparel); intraoperative periarticular infiltration of bupivacaine hydrochloride (Marcaine); and postoperative oral non-opioid analgesics.

Twenty percent of the patients in the case series had filled at least one opioid prescription within three months prior to total knee arthroscopy (TKA). All eight of them required opioids during the three months following surgery. Although pain scores improved over time for all patients, patients who used opioids after TKA reported higher levels of pain at each evaluation time point compared with those who had an opioid-free TKA.

The authors write that prolonged opioid use after TKA is associated with higher rates of infection, stiffness, and aseptic revision. As well, excessive prescribing of opioids after TKA increases the risks for misuse, abuse, dependence and overdose, and contributes to the national opioid crisis. This pilot study was intended to demonstrate that opioid-free TKA was possible; however, results indicate that the majority of patients who used opioids during the three months prior to TKA required opioids to control pain following TKA. How to mitigate prolonged opioid use after TKA for this highest risk subgroup remains an area ripe for investigation.

The authors conclude that “although there is no consensus about the optimal multimodal pain protocol for use in TKA, a growing body of evidence indicates that modalities that target a variety of pain pathways can produce additive or synergistic benefits. Future research should seek to determine which elements of the protocol are most essential for effectively managing pain and minimizing opioid use after TKA and investigate novel approaches to achieving opioid-free status in TKA patients who receive preoperative opioids.”

“Achieving enhanced recoveries after knee replacement surgery has been a long-standing challenge,” notes Dr. Dasa. “With recent innovations and improved surgical techniques, we are now able to achieve results many have found difficult.”

Co-authors include Amy B. Bronstone, PhD, Assistant Professor of Research in the Department of Orthopaedics; Rocio Crabb, MD, a fourth-year Orthopaedics resident; Jarrod Brown, BS, a fourth-year medical student, all at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine; as well as Claudia Leonardi, PhD, Assistant Professor within Behavioral and Community Health at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.

Dr. Dasa is a paid speaker for Bioventus, Swiftpath, and Pacira; consultant for Bioventus and Pacira; owns stock or stock options in SIGHT Medical, My Medical Images, and Goldfinch Health; and has received research support from SKK, Cartiheal and OREF and NIH. The other authors have no competing interests to disclose.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSU Health New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's health sciences university leader, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous annual economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or

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Dr. Vinod Dasa

        Vinod Dasa, MD