Knee Replacement Patients Prefer Pain Relief Option

Liposomal bupivacaine relieved knee pain and improved recovery in knee replacement patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Some patients have their knees replaced to relieve pain, but how do they stop the pain from the surgery? A newer pain control option may reduce the pain and improve recovery. 

In a new study, patients who received a numbing medicine called liposomal bupivacaine reported better knee function and pain relief for two days after knee replacement surgery.

"Function-wise, it was a lot easier for patients to move around more confidently," said lead study author Jason Davis, MD, of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. "In the past decade, we've made major advancements in pain control for knee replacement surgery. This option is a promising, viable one for our patients."

Knee replacement surgery is fairly common for patients with chronic knee pain who find it hard to walk. It involves removing damaged parts of the knee and putting in a knee implant.

Traditionally, patients receive pain control through a nerve block — an anesthetic injected into nerves near the knee. However, this method can cause knee weakness, which may make patients hesitant to start walking with their new knee.

Dr. Davis and team studied 216 patients undergoing knee replacement surgery. Half of the patients received the nerve block, while half received an injection of liposomal bupivacaine (brand name Exparel), an anesthetic, during their surgery.

Dr. Davis and colleagues compared the two groups' pain scores and the length of their stays at the hospital.

They found that the nerve block group and the liposomal bupivacaine group reported similar levels of pain. Also, the patients in the two groups took similar amounts of pain medication.

However, the patients who received the liposomal bupivacaine had shorter hospital stays — 2.5 days in this group, compared to 2.8 days in the nerve block group.

"Patients had pain relief for up to two days after surgery and better knee function compared with the traditional method," Dr. Davis said.

Dr. Davis and team said liposomal bupivacaine could effectively relieve pain and lead to better recovery for knee replacement patients.

This study was presented Nov. 7 at the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons meeting in Dallas. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 23, 2014
Last Updated:
December 29, 2014