Preemptive analgesia: its role and efficacy in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

C J Gatt, R D Parker, J E Tetzlaff, M Z Szabo, A B Dickerson
American Journal of Sports Medicine 1998, 26 (4): 524-9
As more outpatient orthopaedic surgical procedures are performed, postoperative pain control has gained importance. The benefits of preemptive analgesia, the use of analgesics or anesthetics or both before painful stimuli to prevent or reduce pain, have been widely published in the anesthesia and general surgery literature, but not in orthopaedic literature. We prospectively compared the effects, on postoperative pain and narcotic use, of intraarticular preoperative injections of 1) placebo with epinephrine, 2) bupivacaine with epinephrine, and 3) bupivacaine and morphine with epinephrine. Thirty patients (10 in each group) underwent arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction using patellar tendon autograft under general anesthesia. Pain was assessed with a 10-point visual analog scale pre- and postoperatively, and postoperative narcotic pain medication use was recorded. Postoperative pain was significantly greater in group 1 (placebo) than in the preemptive-treatment groups (groups 2 and 3), and in group 2 than in group 3. The differences became less apparent with time, and after 1 hour, no significant differences in pain scores existed between the groups. However, intravenous narcotic pain medication was administered in the recovery room to patients with pain scores greater than 5, equalizing pain scores. Group 3 used significantly less postoperative narcotic medication than group 1. Preemptive analgesia using intraarticular bupivacaine and morphine with epinephrine resulted in lower pain scores during the 1st hour after an arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction than did preemptive treatment with bupivacaine and epinephrine or placebo and epinephrine.

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