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Diagnostic Algorithm for Residual Pain After Total Knee Arthroplasty

Although total knee arthroplasty is a successful and cost-effective procedure, patient dissatisfaction remains as high as 50%. Postoperative residual knee pain after total knee arthroplasty, with or without crepitation, is a major factor that contributes to patient dissatisfaction. The most common location for residual pain after total knee arthroplasty is anteriorly. Because residual pain has been associated with an un-resurfaced patella, this review includes only registry data and total knee arthroplasty with patella replacement. Some suggest that the pathogenesis of residual knee pain may be related to mechanical stimuli that activate free nerve endings around the patellofemoral joint. Various etiologies have been implicated in residual pain, including (1) low-grade infection, (2) midflexion instability, and (3) component malalignment with patellar maltracking. Less common causes include (4) crepitation and patellar clunk syndrome; (5) patellofemoral symptoms, including overstuffing and avascular necrosis of the patella; (6) early aseptic loosening; (7) hypersensitivity to metal or cement; (8) complex regional pain syndrome; and (9) pseudoaneurysm. Because all of these conditions can lead to residual pain, identifying the etiology can be a difficult diagnostic challenge. Often, patients with persistent pain and normal findings on radiographs and laboratory workup may benefit from a diagnostic injection or further imaging. However, up to 10% to 15% of patients with residual pain may have unexplained pain. This literature review summarizes the findings on the causes of residual pain and presents a diagnostic algorithm to facilitate an accurate diagnosis for residual pain after total knee arthroplasty.

Caroline N. Park, BA; Peter B. White, BA; Morteza Meftah, MD; Amar S. Ranawat, MD; Chitranjan S. Ranawat, MD
Orthopedics. 2016;39(2):e246-e252