Paravertebral blocks in immediate breast reconstruction following mastectomy

Michael J Stein, Dan Waltho, Tim Ramsey, Patrick Wong, Angel Arnaout, Jing Zhang
Breast Journal 2019, 25 (4): 631-637

BACKGROUND: Postoperative pain remains a major challenge following immediate breast reconstruction with 40% of patients experiencing acute pain and up to 60% developing chronic pain. Paravertebral blocks (PVB's) have emerged as a promising adjunct to standard analgesic protocols. The aim of this study was to assess the utility of PVB's in immediate breast reconstruction following mastectomy.

METHODS: A retrospective review of patients undergoing immediate breast reconstruction following mastectomy was performed. The primary outcome was postoperative pain measured by total oral morphine equivalent usage and self reported pain scores and secondary outcomes were length of stay in the PACU, complications, and OR delay.

RESULTS: Of 298 patients undergoing immediate breast reconstruction, 112(38%) underwent standard analgesic protocols and 186(62%) underwent PVB in addition to the standard protocol. PVB's were associated with reductions in average postoperative pain scores (2.8 vs 3.3, P = 0.002), total opiate consumption (52 units vs 63 units, P = 0.038) and time spent in the PACU 92 vs 142 minutes, P = 0.0228) compared to patients who had general anesthesia alone. The overall complication rate was 3.7% (7/186 patients), all which were minor complications such as headache, bloody tap, vasovagal episode and temporary weakness. The use of PVBs delayed the OR start time on average by 15 minutes (34 vs 49 minutes).

CONCLUSIONS: The present study offers one of the largest retrospective cohort studies to date evaluating the utility of PVB's in immediate breast reconstruction following mastectomy. We demonstrate that, PVB's in immediate breast reconstruction are associated with reductions in postoperative pain, narcotic usage and length of stay in PACU, but are associated with delays to the start time of the case. Anesthesiologists, plastic surgeons and hospital administrators must continue to work together to ensure this important and necessary service is administered in an efficient and cost effective manner.

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