Comparison between systemic analgesia, continuous wound catheter analgesia and continuous thoracic paravertebral block: a randomised, controlled trial of postthoracotomy pain management

Simon Fortier, Halim A Hanna, Alain Bernard, Claude Girard
European Journal of Anaesthesiology 2012, 29 (11): 524-30

CONTEXT: Thoracotomy is the surgical procedure that creates the greatest demand for postoperative analgesia.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to compare the efficacy of systemic analgesia, continuous wound catheter (CWC) analgesia and thoracic paravertebral block (TPVB) for pain management after thoracotomy, assessed by Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) pain score and morphine consumption.

DESIGN: Prospective, randomised study.

SETTING: University teaching hospital. Inclusions from April 2007 to February 2010.

PATIENTS: 153 adult patients scheduled for pulmonary surgery.

INTERVENTIONS: All three groups received systemic analgesia with paracetamol and morphine (patient-controlled analgesia, PCA). The PCA group received systemic analgesia only. The TPVB group underwent insertion of a paravertebral catheter and the CWC group underwent CWC catheter insertion at the end of the intervention.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Pain score at rest as assessed by VAS.

RESULTS: One hundred and fifty-three patients were included, of whom 140 were included in the final analysis (50 PCA, 44 TPVB, 46 CWC). Baseline and surgical characteristics were comparable in the three groups. VAS scores were statistically different between the TPVB and PCA groups at rest (at 0, 1, 3, 6 h; P < 0.0026) and after coughing (0, 1, 3, 6, 12 h; P < 0.003). In recovery room care, titrated morphine doses were significantly lower (P = 0.00001) in the TPVB group than in the other two. Morphine consumption was statistically lower in the TPVB group than in the PCA group at 24 h (P = 0.0036). There was no difference between CWC and PCA groups in terms of VAS scores or morphine consumption. No signs of toxicity or local complications were observed.

CONCLUSION: Our results support the efficacy of TPVB for pain management after thoracotomy, at rest and after coughing. These results confirm the preference for TPVB over epidural analgesia in postthoracotomy pain care. CWC failed to decrease pain and morphine consumption and performed no better than placebo.

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