Background Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is associated with intense post-operative pain. Besides providing optimal analgesia, reduction in side effects and enhanced mobilization are important in this elderly population. The adductor-canal-blockade is theoretically an almost pure sensory blockade. We hypothesized that the adductor-canal-blockade may reduce morphine consumption (primary endpoint), improve pain relief, enhance early ambulation ability, and reduce side effects (secondary endpoints) after TKA compared with placebo. Methods Patients aged 50-85 years scheduled for TKA were included in this parallel double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. The patients were allocated to receive a continuous adductor-canal-blockade with intermittent boluses via a catheter with either ropivacaine 0.75% (n = 34) or placebo (n = 37) (Identifier: NCT01104883). Results Seventy-five patients were randomized in a 1 : 1 ratio and 71 patients were analyzed. Morphine consumption from 0 to 24 h was significantly reduced in the ropivacaine group compared with the placebo group (40 ±21 vs. 56 ±26 mg, P = 0.006). Pain was significantly reduced in the ropivacaine group during 45 degrees flexion of the knee (P = 0.01), but not at rest (P = 0.06). Patients in the ropivacaine group performed the ambulation test, the Timed-Up-and-Go (TUG) test, at 24 h significantly faster than patients in the placebo group (36 ±17 vs. 50 ±29 s, P = 0.03). Conclusion The adductor-canal-blockade significantly reduced morphine consumption and pain during 45 degrees flexion of the knee compared with placebo. In addition, the adductor-canal-blockade significantly enhanced ambulation ability assessed by the TUG test.