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INTRODUCTION: Tourniquets are routinely used during total knee replacement (TKR) surgery. They could increase the risk of thromboembolic events including cerebral emboli, cognitive decline, pain and other adverse events (AEs). A randomised controlled trial to assess whether tourniquet use might safely be avoided is therefore warranted but it is unclear whether such a trial would be feasible. METHODS: In a single-site feasibility study and pilot randomised controlled trial, adults having a TKR were randomised to surgery with an inflated tourniquet versus a non-inflated tourniquet. Participants underwent brain MRI preoperatively and within 2 days postoperatively. We assessed cognition using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and Oxford Cognitive Screen (OCS) and thigh pain using a Visual Analogue Scale at baseline and days 1 and 2, and 1 week postsurgery. AEs related to surgery were recorded up to 12 months. RESULTS: We randomised 53 participants (27 tourniquet inflated and 26 tourniquet not inflated). Fifty-one participants received care per-protocol (96%) and 48 (91%) were followed up at 12 months. One new ischaemic brain lesion was detected. Of the cognitive tests, MoCA was easy to summarise, sensitive to change with lower ceiling effects compared with OCS and MMSE. There was a trend towards more thigh pain (mean 49.6 SD 30.4 vs 36.2 SD 28 at day 1) and more AEs related to surgery (21 vs 9) in participants with an inflated tourniquet compared with those with a tourniquet not inflated. CONCLUSION: A full trial is feasible, but using MRI as a primary outcome is unlikely to be appropriate or feasible. Suitable primary outcomes would be cognition measured using MoCA, pain and AEs, all of which warrant investigation in a large multicentre trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN20873088.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmj open

Publication Date





adult surgery, knee, orthopaedic & trauma surgery, Adult, Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee, Feasibility Studies, Female, Humans, Pilot Projects, Tourniquets, Treatment Outcome