knee replacement risks

A new study has revealed that knee replacement surgery carried out with a tourniquet is more dangerous than other methods. According to the results, patients could be as much as 73% more likely to develop serious complications after the procedure.

Here, we’ll look at what this latest study found and what it means for patients.

Understanding the study

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Warwick, assessed data from 41 past clinical trials. After combining multiple studies from across the globe, it was revealed that using a tourniquet is more dangerous for patients. It included a total of 2,819 patients, with 5.9% experiencing serious complications.

There is a 73% increased risk of suffering from serious complications after the procedure when a tourniquet is used. The study found that if tourniquets were removed from the procedure completely, it could prevent 1,987 serious complications in UK patients each year. So, what is the tourniquet method and why is it more dangerous?

Why do we use a tourniquet for knee surgery?

The tourniquet is a tight inflatable cuff, wrapped round the top of the thigh, to stop bleeding during surgery.  Surgeons find the surgery easier when there is no bleeding into the wound.  It is usually used for around an hour while the procedure is being performed. However, as the study points out, it has shown to greatly increase the risks of surgery.

Just some of the complications reported through the tourniquet method, are nerve damage, pulmonary embolism and stiffness in the joint. Avoiding the use of a tourniquet, on the other hand, have shown to reduce post-operative pain and speed up the patients’ recovery.

Mr Bridle no longer uses a tourniquet for the vast majority of his knee replacements, choosing instead to focus on alternative methods which reduce complications. Modern anaesthetic techniques, in particular spinal anaesthesia, reduce bleeding. Pain can also be managed in alternative ways, including nerve blocks and the use of local anaesthetic around the knee.

The recent introduction of robotic assisted surgery has been shown to reduce post-operative pain, allow more rapid rehabilitation and achieve better function.

Of course the majority of patients experience no complications after their knee replacement. However, like any procedure, there are risks and complications involved, so reducing the risk, including avoiding the use of a tourniquet, is certainly in the patients’ best interest.

If you are considering undergoing a knee replacement operation, book a consultation with Mr Bridle today.