BACKGROUND:Self-administration of medicines by patients whilst in hospital is being increasingly promoted despite little evidence to show the risks and benefits. Pain control after total knee replacement (TKR) is known to be poor. The aim of the study was to determine if patients operated on with a TKR who self-medicate their oral analgesics in the immediate post-operative period have better pain control than those who receive their pain control by nurse-led drug rounds (Treatment as Usual (TAU)). METHODS:A prospective, parallel design, open-label, randomised controlled trial comparing pain control in patient-directed self-management of pain (PaDSMaP) with nurse control of oral analgesia (TAU) after a TKR. Between July 2011 and March 2013, 144 self-medicating adults were recruited at a secondary care teaching hospital in the UK. TAU patients (n = 71) were given medications by a nurse after their TKR. PaDSMaP patients (n = 73) took oral medications for analgesia and co-morbidities after two 20 min training sessions reinforced with four booklets. Primary outcome was pain (100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS)) at 3 days following TKR surgery or at discharge (whichever came soonest). Seven patients did not undergo surgery for reasons unrelated to the study and were excluded from the intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. RESULTS:ITT analysis did not detect any significant differences between the two groups' pain scores. A per protocol (but underpowered) analysis of the 60% of patients able to self-medicate found reduced pain compared to the TAU group at day 3/discharge, (VAS -9.9 mm, 95% CI -18.7, - 1.1). One patient in the self-medicating group over-medicated but suffered no harm. CONCLUSION:Self-medicating patients did not have better (lower) pain scores compared to the nurse-managed patients following TKR. This cohort of patients were elderly with multiple co-morbidities and may not be the ideal target group for self-medication. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ISRCTN10868989 . Registered 22 March 2012, retrospectively registered.