Patients commonly develop postoperative pain after total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Acupuncture-related techniques and low-level laser therapy could be beneficial for pain management for older individuals.
To examine the effect of low-level laser acupuncture (LA) in reducing postoperative pain, pain-related interference in daily life, morphine consumption, and morphine-related side effects in older patients with knee osteoarthritis who underwent TKA.
A single-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted. Patients (N = 82) were recruited and randomly assigned via a computer-generated list to the LA group or a placebo group. The LA group received low-level laser therapy at Sanyinjiao (SP6), Taixi (KI3), Kunlun (BL60), Fengshi (GB31), Futu (ST32) and Neiguan (PC6) after TKA, while the placebo acupuncture group received the same treatment procedure without laser energy output.
The primary outcome was postoperative pain intensity, and it was measured at baseline and hours 2, 6, 10, 24, 48 and 72 after TKA. The secondary outcomes, including relative pain, postoperative pain-related interference in daily life and morphine consumption, were measured at hours 24, 48 and 72 after TKA.
Generalized estimating equations revealed significant between-group differences in pain intensity (P = 0.01), and trend differences in pain intensity for the LA group starting at hours 10 to 72 (P < 0.05) and morphine consumption at hours 48 and 72 (P < 0.05). The changes in pain-related interference in daily life were significant (P < 0.05) at 72 h, with the exception of the parameters for worst pain, mood, and sleep. Nausea and vomiting side effects from morphine had significant between-group differences at hours 10 and 24 (P < 0.05).
Low-level LA gradually reduced older patients’ postoperative pain intensity and morphine consumption within the first 72 h after their TKA for osteoarthritis. Low-level LA may have benefits as an adjuvant pain management technique for clinical care.
ClinicalTrials.gov registration number NCT03995446.

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