Fewer postoperative fevers: An unexpected benefit of multimodal pain management?

Joseph A. Karam, Benjamin Zmistowski, Camilo Restrepo, William J. Hozack, Javad Parvizi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Elevated temperatures after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) are common and can be a source of anxiety both for the patient and the surgical team. Although such fevers rarely are caused by acute infection, many patients are subjected to extensive testing for elevated body temperature after surgery. We recently implemented a multimodal pain management regimen for TJA, which includes acetaminophen, pregabalin, and celecoxib or toradol, and because some of these medications have antipyrexic properties, it was speculated that this protocol might influence the frequency of postoperative pyrexia. Questions/purposes: The purpose of this study was to determine whether patients treated under this protocol were less likely to exhibit postoperative fever after primary TJA, compared with a historical control group, and whether they were less likely to receive postoperative testing as part of a fever workup. Methods We compared 1484 primary TJAs in which pain was controlled primarily with opioid-based relief from July 2004 to December 2006with 2417 procedures from July 2009 to December 2011 during which timemultimodal agentswere used. The same three surgeons were responsible for care in both of these cohorts. Oral temperature readings in the first 5 postoperative days (POD) were drawn from a review of medical records, which also were evaluated for fever workup tests, including urinalysis, urine culture, chest radiograph, and blood culture. Fever was defined by the presence of a temperature measurement over 38.5 °C. Patients having preoperative fever or postoperative fever starting later than POD 5 were excluded. Before surgery, there were no differences between the groups' temperature measurements. Results: Fewer patients developed fever in the multimodal analgesia group than in the control group (5% versus 25%, p < 0.001). Furthermore, fewer patients underwent workup for fever in the multimodal analgesia cohort (1.8%of patients undergoing 155 individual tests) compared with the control cohort (9.8% of patients undergoing 247 individual tests; p < 0.001). Conclusions: In addition to fewer adverse effects and better pain control, the multimodal analgesia protocol has the hidden benefit of dampening the temperature response to the surgical insult of TJA. The decreased rate of postoperative fever avoids unnecessary anxiety for the patient and the treating team and reduces healthcare resource use occasioned by working up postoperative fever. Level of Evidence: Level III, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1495
Number of pages7
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


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