Postoperative pain management for arthroscopic shoulder surgery: interscalene block versus patient-controlled infusion of 0.25% bupivicaine

David Chao, Shaun Young, Patrick Cawley
American Journal of Orthopedics 2006, 35 (5): 231-4
We compared an interscalene block with a patient-controlled regional anesthesia device (Pain Care 2000; Breg, Inc, Vista, Calif) for pain management after outpatient arthroscopic shoulder surgery (subacromial decompression as principal procedure). The 41 patients in this prospective study were randomized to receive either the block or the device. During the postoperative period, all patients in both groups received standardized oral medications and continuous cold therapy and used continuous passive motion machines. Patients were given diaries and instruction in making entries upon waking and before retiring on postoperative days 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10. Data collected were number of pain medications used each day; number of nighttime awakenings; and subjective pain, activity, and quality-of-life levels rated on a visual analog scale. All data were statistically analyzed with the Mann-Whitney test. Compared with patients using the block, patients using the device awoke significantly fewer times the first night after surgery (P = .023), were significantly more active during postoperative days 1 and 2 (Ps = .018, .042), and took significantly fewer pain medications on postoperative day 2 (P = .034). On all other measures, results were equivalent or were better with the device, though these findings were not statistically significant. Patient-controlled subacromial infusion of bupivicaine is an effective alternative to interscalene block for outpatient pain management after arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

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