Bone Joint J 2019;101-B (7 Supple C):84–90

A prospective randomized trial examining the use of a closed suction drain shows no influence on strength or function in primary total knee arthroplasty

J. M. Jennings, B. J. Loyd, T. M. Miner, C. C. Yang, J. Stevens-Lapsley, D. A. Dennis


The aim of this study was to determine whether closed suction drain (CSD) use influences recovery of quadriceps strength and to examine the effects of drain use on secondary outcomes: quadriceps activation, intra-articular effusion, bioelectrical measure of swelling, range of movement (ROM), pain, and wound healing complications.

Patients and Methods

A total of 29 patients undergoing simultaneous bilateral total knee arthroplasty (TKA) were enrolled in a prospective, randomized blinded study. Patients were randomized to receive a CSD in one limb while the contralateral limb had the use of a subcutaneous drain (SCDRN) without the use of suction (‘sham drain’). Isometric quadriceps strength was collected as the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes consisted of quadriceps activation, intra-articular effusion measured via ultrasound, lower limb swelling measured with bioelectrical impendence and limb girth, knee ROM, and pain. Outcomes were assessed preoperatively and postoperatively at day two, two and six weeks, and three months. Differences between limbs were determined using paired Student’s t-tests or Wilcoxon’s signed-rank tests.


No significant differences were identified between limbs prior to surgery for the primary or secondary outcomes. No significant differences in quadriceps strength were seen between CSD and SCDRN limbs at postoperative day two (p = 0.09), two weeks (primary endpoint) (p = 0.7), six weeks (p = 0.3), or three months (p = 0.5). The secondary outcome of knee extension ROM was significantly greater in the CSD limb compared with the SCDRN (p = 0.01) at two weeks following surgery, but this difference was absent at all other intervals. Secondary outcomes of quadriceps activation, intra-articular effusion, lower limb swelling, and pain were not found to differ significantly at any timepoint following surgery.


The use of CSD during TKA did not influence quadriceps strength, quadriceps activation, intra-articular effusion, lower limb swelling, ROM, or pain. These results have limited drain use by the authors in primary uncomplicated TKA.

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