A prospective, randomised, controlled trial of the use of drains in total hip arthroplasty

P J Walmsley, M B Kelly, R M F Hill, I Brenkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The routine use of surgical drains in total hip arthroplasty remains controversial. They have not been shown to decrease the rate of wound infection significantly and can provide a retrograde route for it. Their use does not reduce the size or incidence of post-operative wound haematomas. This prospective, randomised study was designed to evaluate the role of drains in routine total hip arthroplasty. We investigated 552 patients (577 hips) undergoing unilateral or bilateral total hip arthroplasty who had been randomised to either having a drain for 24 hours or not having a drain. All patients followed standardised pre-, intra-, and post-operative regimes and were independently assessed using the Harris hip score before operation and at six, 18 and 36 months follow-up. The rate of superficial and deep infection was 2.9% and 0.4%, respectively, in the drained group and 4.8% and 0.7%, respectively in the undrained group. One patient in the undrained group had a haematoma which did not require drainage or transfusion. The rate of transfusion after operation in the drained group was significantly higher than for undrained procedures (p < 0.042). The use of a drain did not influence the post-operative levels of haemoglobin, the revision rates, Harris hip scores, the length of hospital stay or the incidence of thromboembolism. We conclude that drains provide no clear advantage at total hip arthroplasty, represent an additional cost, and expose patients to a higher risk of transfusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1397-401
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surgical Wound Infection
  • Treatment Outcome


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