From the Journals

Preoperative tramadol fails to improve function after knee surgery



Tramadol given prior to knee surgery was associated with less postoperative improvement than other opiates or no opiates, according to findings of a study based on pre- and postsurgery data.

Tramadol has become a popular choice for nonoperative knee pain relief because of its low potential for abuse and favorable safety profile, but its impact on postoperative outcomes when given before knee surgery has not been well studied, wrote Adam Driesman, MD, of the New York University Langone Orthopedic Hospital and colleagues.

In a study published in the Journal of Arthroplasty, the researchers compared patient-reported outcomes (PRO) after total knee arthroplasty among 136 patients who received no opiates, 21 who received tramadol, and 42 who received other opiates. All patients who did not have preoperative and postoperative PRO scores were excluded

All patients received the same multimodal perioperative pain protocol, and all were placed on oxycodone postoperatively for maintenance and breakthrough pain as needed, with discharge prescriptions for acetaminophen/oxycodone combination (Percocet) for breakthrough pain.

Patients preoperative assessment using the Knee Disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score Jr. (KOOS, JR.) were similar among the groups prior to surgery; baseline scores for the groups receiving either tramadol, no opiates, or other opiates were 49.95, 50.4, and 48.0, respectively. Demographics also were not significantly different among the groups.

At 3 months, the average KOOS, JR., score for the tramadol group (62.4) was significantly lower, compared with the other-opiate group (67.1) and treatment-naive group (70.1). In addition, patients in the tramadol group had the least change in scores on KOOS, JR., with an average of 12.5 points, compared with 19.1-point and 20.1-point improvements, respectively, in the alternate-opiate group and opiate-naive group.

The data expand on previous findings that patients given preoperative opioids had proportionally less postoperative pain relief than those not on opioids, the researchers said, but noted that they were surprised by the worse outcomes in the tramadol group given its demonstrated side-effect profile.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the retrospective design and relatively short follow-up period, as well as the inability to accurately determine outpatient medication use, not only of opioids, but of nonopioid postoperative pain medications that could have affected the results, the researchers said.

“However, given the conflicting evidence presented in this study and despite the 2013 American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Clinical Practice Guidelines, it is recommended providers remain very conservative in their administration of outpatient narcotics including tramadol prior to surgery,” they concluded.

SOURCE: Driesman A et al. J Arthroplasty. 2019;34(8):1662-66.

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