Twenty-eight patients who underwent unilateral total knee arthroplasty and 20 patients who underwent simultaneous bilateral total knee arthroplasties participated in this study and were randomized to have either a fluted or round 10-mm diameter femoral intramedullary alignment rod used during surgery. The intramedullary rods were cannulated and connected with pressure tubing to a monitor which provided measurements of pressure at the tip of each rod. Arterial blood gas measurements on room air were obtained before and on the morning after surgery. An arterial line was placed and an arterial blood gas measurement was obtained at the time of skin incision and again after tourniquet release. Pulmonary shunt was calculated from the arterial blood gas measurements. Intramedullary pressure during rod insertion was significantly higher for the groups of patients having the round compared with the fluted rod. The change in pulmonary shunt during surgery was lowest for the patients in the unilateral group having the fluted rod and highest for the patients in the bilateral group having the round rod. A fluted rather than a round intramedullary alignment rod should be used to minimize intramedullary pressure and pulmonary shunting during unilateral and bilateral total knee arthroplasties.