Continuous infraclavicular brachial plexus block for postoperative pain control at home: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study

Brian M Ilfeld, Timothy E Morey, F Kayser Enneking
Anesthesiology 2002, 96 (6): 1297-304

BACKGROUND: This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study investigated the efficacy of patient-controlled regional analgesia using an infraclavicular brachial plexus perineural catheter and a portable infusion pump for outpatients undergoing moderately painful, upper extremity orthopedic surgery.

METHODS: Preoperatively, patients (n = 30) received an infraclavicular nerve block and perineural catheter. Postoperatively, patients were discharged home with oral narcotics and a portable infusion pump delivering study solution (0.2% ropivacaine or 0.9% saline) via the catheter for 3 days. Investigators and patients were blinded to random group assignment. Daily end points included pain scores at rest and with limb movement, narcotic use and side effects, sleep quality, patient satisfaction, and symptoms of catheter- or local anesthetic-related complications.

RESULTS: Ropivacaine (n = 15) infusion significantly reduced pain compared with saline (n = 15) infusion (P < 0.001). For example, the average pain with movement (scale, 0-10) on postoperative day 1 was 6.1 +/- 2.3 for the saline group versus 2.5 +/- 1.6 for the ropivacaine group (P < 0.001). Oral narcotic use and related side effects were significantly decreased in the ropivacaine group. For example, on postoperative day 1, mean tablet consumption was 5.5 +/- 2.4 and 1.7 +/- 1.6 for the saline and ropivacaine groups, respectively (P < 0.001). Sleep disturbance scores were 10-fold greater for saline administration than for ropivacaine infusion (P < 0.001). Overall satisfaction was significantly greater in the ropivacaine group. No catheter- or local anesthetic-related complications occurred.

CONCLUSION: After moderately painful orthopedic surgery of the upper extremity, ropivacaine infusion using a portable, mechanical pump and an infraclavicular brachial plexus perineural catheter at home decreased pain, sleep disturbances, narcotic use and related side effects, and improved overall satisfaction.

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