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The Effect of Pain After Total Knee Arthroplasty on the Contralateral, Nonreplaced Knee
H.K. Smith, MBChB (Hons), MRCS1; V. Wylde, BSc, PhD2; E.A. Lingard, BPhty, MPhil, MPH, PhD3; A. Blom, MBChB, MD, PhD, FRCS2; C. Metcalfe, BSc, MSc, PhD1; Y. Ben-Shlomo, MBBS, MSc, PhD, MRCP1
1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, United Kingdom. E-mail address for H.K. Smith: hsmith22@doctors.org.uk
2 Musculoskeletal Research Unit, School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS10 5NB, United Kingdom
3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DN, United Kingdom
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  • Disclosure statement for author(s): PDF

Investigation performed at the School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2013 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2013 Feb 20;95(4):315-322. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00797
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Osteoarthritis is associated with a strong biomechanical component. Persistent pain in the index knee after total knee arthroplasty could lead to pain in the contralateral knee. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether a change in the natural history of pain in the contralateral knee was related to postoperative pain in the index knee.


Seven hundred and seventy-two patients undergoing primary unilateral total knee arthroplasty with use of the Kinemax prosthesis for the treatment of osteoarthritis comprised the cohort (Kinemax Outcomes Study cohort). Patients were assessed preoperatively and were followed for twenty-four months after surgery with use of the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). We collected separate WOMAC pain scores for the index knee and the contralateral knee. Our primary outcome measure was the WOMAC pain score (rescaled to 100, with 100 being the best score) for the contralateral knee at three, twelve, and twenty-four months. We examined whether within-subject changes in the WOMAC pain score for the contralateral knee were predicted by the WOMAC pain score for the index knee at three months with use of linear regression and multilevel models after adjustment for sex, age, country, body mass index, income, and mental well-being.


Improvement in terms of pain was observed in both the index and contralateral knees between baseline and three months. Subsequently, there was a modest deterioration of 3.5 units per year (standard deviation, 9.8 units per year) in the contralateral knee (p < 0.001), which was not predicted by pain in the index knee shortly after surgery (p > 0.6).


Pain in the index knee at three months after total knee arthroplasty did not appear to predict a symptomatic increase in pain in the contralateral knee over two years of follow-up in our cohort. The contralateral knee did not require any additional clinical surveillance over and above the patients’ reports on their symptoms.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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