Older adults’ postoperative pain medication usage after total knee arthroplasty: A qualitative descriptive study


  • Samantha Bremner, MSc
  • Fiona Webster, PhD
  • Joel Katz, PhD
  • Judy Watt-Watson, PhD
  • Colin McCartney, MBChB




qualitative research, postoperative pain, medication adherence, analgesia, total knee arthroplasty


Objective: Most total knee arthroplasty (TKA) recipients experience pain following the procedure. Patients are provided with medications to manage pain but there is little information regarding their usage of analgesics after hospital discharge. This study investigated analgesic usage in recent TKA recipients.

Design and participants: A qualitative descriptive approach was taken to produce a summary of the experiences of 14 participants. Purposive sampling methods were used during recruitment. One semistructured interview was conducted with each participant. Interviewing continued until theoretical saturation was reached.

Results: Most participants used less medication than was prescribed and stopped taking prescription analgesics before requiring a renewal. Participants adjusted their usage in response to pain, adverse effects, advice from their family and healthcare providers, fears of becoming “hooked,” and a general dislike of taking medications.

Conclusions: Patient modifications to medication regimens are often labeled as patient nonadherence; however, participants in this study considered their actions to be adaptive. This conceptual distinction has practical implications for healthcare providers. These findings emphasize the importance of having TKA patients develop their pain management regimen in conjunction with healthcare providers so that regimens can be tailored to individual needs.

Author Biographies

Samantha Bremner, MSc

Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Fiona Webster, PhD

Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Joel Katz, PhD

Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Judy Watt-Watson, PhD

Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Colin McCartney, MBChB

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Department of Anesthesiology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


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How to Cite

Bremner, MSc, S., Webster, PhD, F., Katz, PhD, J., Watt-Watson, PhD, J., & McCartney, MBChB, C. (2012). Older adults’ postoperative pain medication usage after total knee arthroplasty: A qualitative descriptive study. Journal of Opioid Management, 8(3), 145–152. https://doi.org/10.5055/jom.2012.0110