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Pain Management Strategies After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Systematic Review With Network Meta-analysis

Published:January 27, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arthro.2021.01.023

      Purpose

      To systematically review randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating various pain control interventions after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) to determine the best-available evidence in managing postoperative pain and to optimize patient outcomes.

      Methods

      A systematic review of the literature was performed based on the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) guidelines. A study was included if it was an RCT evaluating an intervention to reduce postoperative pain acutely after ACLR in one of the following areas: (1) nerve blocks, (2) nerve block adjuncts, (3) intra-articular injections, (4) oral medications, (5) intravenous medications, (6) tranexamic acid, and (7) compressive stockings and cryotherapy. Quantitative and qualitative statistics were carried out, and network meta-analysis was performed where applicable.

      Results

      Overall, 74 RCTs were included. Across 34 studies, nerve blocks were found to significantly reduce postoperative pain and opioid use, but there was no significant difference among the various nerve blocks in the network meta-analysis. Intra-articular injections consisting of bupivacaine and an adjunct were found to reduce reported postoperative pain scores up to 12 hours after ACLR, with significantly lower postoperative opioid use.

      Conclusions

      Nerve blocks and regional anesthesia are the mainstay treatment of postoperative pain after ACLR, with the commonly used nerve blocks being equally efficacious. Intra-articular injections consisting of bupivacaine and an adjunct were found to reduce reported postoperative pain scores up to 12 hours after ACLR, with significantly lower postoperative opioid use. There was promising evidence for the use of some oral and intravenous medications, tranexamic acid, and nerve block adjuncts, as well as cryotherapy, to control pain and reduce postoperative opioid use.

      Level of Evidence

      Level II, systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs.
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