Role of Suction Drain after Knee Arthroplasty in the Tranexamic Acid Era: A Randomized Controlled Study.

Postoperative suction drains are used after total knee arthroplasty to avoid intra-articular hematoma formation although they can increase blood loss due to a negative suction effect. The use of tranexamic acid to reduce blood loss may nullify this. The aim of this study was to compare outcomes in patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty with or without drains and to analyze whether the drain’s diameter also has an impact.

This is a prospective randomized study of patients undergoing unilateral total knee arthroplasty performed by a single surgeon. The study population was divided into three groups (A, 10G drain; B, 12G drain; and C, no drain). Pain, blood loss, swelling, wound-related complications, functional outcomes and questionnaire-based outcomes were assessed postoperatively.

Each group had 35 patients comparable in most demographic and pre- and intraoperative characteristics. During the first 6 hours postoperatively, opioid consumption was significantly higher when the drain was not used (p = 0.036). At 3 months postoperatively, new Knee Society Score (NKSS) was highest with the use of 12G drain (p = 0.018). However, NKSS at 1 year was comparable across the three groups. With the use of tranexamic acid, blood loss and incidence of soakage of dressing were unaffected by the presence or absence of a drain. The calf girth, suprapatellar girth, soakage of dressing and range of motion were comparable in all three groups. There was no incidence of surgical site infection or deep vein thrombosis.

Presence of a suction drain significantly reduces opioid consumption during the first 6 hours after total knee arthroplasty. Use of a drain made no difference to the functional outcome at 1 year postoperatively. With the use of tranexamic acid in total knee arthroplasty, the total blood loss and the requirement of blood transfusion were unaffected by the presence or absence of closed suction drainage or by the bore of the drain used. The clinical parameters such as swelling, range of motion, infection and deep vein thrombosis also remained the same.