Suprascapular nerve block or a piroxicam patch for shoulder tip pain after day case laparoscopic surgery

J Y Hong, I H Lee
European Journal of Anaesthesiology 2003, 20 (3): 234-8

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: The reported incidence of shoulder tip pain following laparoscopic surgery varies from 35 to 63%. This study evaluated the analgesic efficacy of either performing a prophylactic suprascapular nerve block with bupivacaine or applying a piroxicam patch to the skin over both shoulders for the relief of shoulder tip pain after laparoscopy.

METHODS: Sixty healthy informed female patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (a) a control group (n = 20), no treatment; (b) a suprascapular nerve block group (n = 20) in which a bilateral suprascapular nerve block was performed before induction of anaesthesia with 5 mL 0.5% bupivacaine with epinephrine; and (c) a piroxicam patch group (n = 20) in which a 48 mg piroxicam patch on the skin of each shoulder was applied before induction of anaesthesia. All patients received a total intravenous anaesthesia technique with propofol, fentanyl and vecuronium. Shoulder tip and wound pain were recorded on a visual analogue pain scale at five time intervals for 24 h after surgery.

RESULTS: A total of 80% of patients in the control group, 75% in the suprascapular nerve block group and 45% in the piroxicam patch group complained of shoulder tip pain during the recording period (P < 0.05). The scores for shoulder tip pain in the piroxicam patch group were significantly lower compared with the control group at 3, 6 and 12 h, and compared with the suprascapular nerve block group at 6 and 12 h. The need for analgesics was also significantly lower in the piroxicam patch group compared with the other two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Prophylactic piroxicam patches are effective and safe for the relief of shoulder tip pain after laparoscopy. Bilateral suprascapular nerve block is not effective in this setting.

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