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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Does using a femoral nerve block for total knee replacement decrease postoperative delirium?

Sakura Kinjo1*, Eunjung Lim2, Laura P Sands2, Kevin J Bozic3 and Jacqueline M Leung1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0648, USA

2 School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2069, USA

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0728, USA

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BMC Anesthesiology 2012, 12:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-12-4

Published: 10 March 2012



The effect of peripheral nerve blocks on postoperative delirium in older patients has not been studied. Peripheral nerve blocks may reduce the incidence of postoperative opioid use and its side effects such as delirium via opioid-sparing effect.


A prospective cohort study was conducted in patients who underwent total knee replacement. Baseline cognitive function was assessed using the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status. Postoperative delirium was measured using the Confusion Assessment Method postoperatively. Incidence of postoperative delirium was compared in two postoperative management groups: femoral nerve block ± patient-controlled analgesia and patient-controlled analgesia only. In addition, pain levels (using numeric rating scales) and opioid use were compared in two groups.


85 patients were studied. The overall incidence of postoperative delirium either on postoperative day one or day two was 48.1%. Incidence of postoperative delirium in the femoral nerve block group was lower than patient controlled analgesia only group (25% vs. 61%, P = 0.002). However, there was no significant difference between the groups with respect to postoperative pain level or the amount of intravenous opioid use.


Femoral nerve block reduces the incidence of postoperative delirium. These results suggest that a larger randomized control trial is necessary to confirm these preliminary findings.