Original Research

Use of Intravenous Tranexamic Acid Improves Early Ambulation After Total Knee Arthroplasty and Anterior and Posterior Total Hip Arthroplasty

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We conducted a retrospective cohort study (N = 477) to determine if use of intravenous tranexamic acid (TXA) improves early ambulation and reduces blood loss after total knee arthroplasty and anterior and posterior total hip arthroplasty. Mean (SD) patient age was 66.5 (10.1) years. For all 3 procedures, early ambulation was significantly better in the TXA group than in the no-TXA group at postoperative days 1 and 2, and, over time, reductions in hemoglobin and hematocrit were statistically significantly lower in the TXA group than in the no-TXA group. TXA groups required fewer postoperative transfusions. Incidence of postoperative venous thromboembolism was similar between all groups. TXA use improves early ambulation after total joint arthroplasty.



Take-Home Points

  • IV-TXA significantly reduces intraoperative blood loss following TJA.
  • Early mobilization correlates with reduced incidence of postoperative complications.
  • IV-TXA minimizes postoperative anemia, facilitating improved early ambulation following TJA.
  • IV-TXA significantly reduces the need for postoperative transfusions.
  • IV-TXA is safe to use with no adverse events noted.

By the year 2020, use of primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) in the United States will increase an estimated 110%, to 1.375 million procedures annually, and use of primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) will increase an estimated 75%, to more than 500,000 procedures. 1 Minimizing perioperative blood loss and improving early postoperative ambulation both correlate with reduced postoperative morbidity, allowing patients to return to their daily lives expeditiously. 

Tranexamic acid (TXA), a fibrinolytic inhibitor, competitively blocks lysine receptor binding sites of plasminogen, sustaining and stabilizing the fibrin architecture. 2 TXA must be present to occupy binding sites before plasminogen binds to fibrin, validating the need for preoperative administration so the drug is available early in the fibrinolytic cascade. 3 Intravenous (IV) TXA diffuses rapidly into joint fluid and the synovial membrane. 4 Drug concentration and elimination half-life in joint fluid are equivalent to those in serum. Elimination of TXA occurs by glomerular filtration, with about 30% of a 10-mg/kg dose removed in 1 hour, 55% over the first 3 hours, and 90% within 24 hours of IV administration. 5

The efficacy of IV-TXA in minimizing total joint arthroplasty (TJA) perioperative blood loss has been proved in small studies and meta-analyses. 6-9 TXA-induced blood conservation decreases or eliminates the need for postoperative transfusion, which can impede valuable, early ambulation.10 In addition, the positive clinical safety profile of TXA supports routine use of TXA in TJA. 6,11-15

The benefits of early ambulation after TJA are well established. Getting patients to walk on the day of surgery is a key part of effective and rapid postoperative rehabilitation. Early mobilization correlates with reduced incidence of venous thrombosis and postoperative complications. 16 In contrast to bed rest, sitting and standing promotes oxygen saturation, which improves tissue healing and minimizes adverse pulmonary events. Oxygen saturation also preserves muscle strength and blood flow, reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism and ulcers. Muscle strength must be maintained so normal gait can be regained. 17 Compared with rehabilitation initiated 48 to 72 hours after TKA, rehabilitation initiated within 24 hours reduced the number of sessions needed to achieve independence and normal gait; in addition, early mobilization improved patient reports of pain after surgery. 18 An evaluation of Denmark registry data revealed that mobilization to walking and use of crutches or canes was achieved earlier when ambulation was initiated on day of surgery. 19 Finally, mobilization on day of surgery and during the immediate postoperative period improved long-term quality of life after TJA. 20

We conducted a retrospective cohort study to determine if use of IV-TXA improves early ambulation and reduces blood loss after TKA and anterior and posterior THA. We hypothesized that IV-TXA use would reduce postoperative anemia and improve early ambulation and outcomes without producing adverse events during the immediate postoperative period. TXA reduces bleeding, and reduced incidence of hemarthrosis, wound swelling, and anemia could facilitate ambulation, reduce complications, and shorten recovery in patients who undergo TJA.

Patients and Methods

In February 2014, this retrospective cohort study received Institutional Review Board approval to compare the safety and efficacy of IV-TXA (vs no TXA) in patients who underwent TKA, anterior THA, and posterior THA.

In March 2012, multidisciplinary protocols were standardized to ensure a uniform hospital course for patients at our institution. All patients underwent preoperative testing and evaluation by a nurse practitioner and an anesthesiologist. In March 2013, IV-TXA became our standard of care. TXA use was contraindicated in patients with thromboembolic disease or with hypersensitivity to TXA. Patients without a contraindication were given two 10-mg/kg IV-TXA doses, each administered over 15 to 30 minutes; the first dose was administered before incision, and the second was infused at case close and/or at least 60 minutes after the first dose. Most TKA patients received regional (femoral) anesthesia and analgesia, and most THA patients received spinal or epidural anesthesia and analgesia. In a small percentage of cases, IV analgesia was patient-controlled, as determined by the pain service. There were no significant differences in anesthesia/analgesia modality between the 2 study groups—patients who received TXA and those who did not. Patients were then transitioned to oral opioids for pain management, unless otherwise contraindicated, and were ambulated 4 hours after end of surgery, unless medically unstable. Hematology and chemistry laboratory values


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