A randomised, double blind trial was carried out in 16 patients undergoing pleurectomy to assess the effect of continuous extrapleural intercostal block on postoperative pain and pulmonary function. Subjective pain relief was assessed on a linear visual analogue scale. Pulmonary function was measured on the day before operation and daily for five days after surgery. Eight patients received bupivacaine and eight placebo (saline). The mean pain scores at 4, 8, 16, and 24 hours were 13.3, 8.5, 6.1, and 10 mm respectively in the bupivacaine group compared with 56.3, 41, 46.7, and 35 in the control group; in addition, the bupivacaine group required less papaveretum. Twenty four hours after surgery mean values of peak expiratory flow, forced expiratory volume in one second, and forced vital capacity were reduced to 82%, 76%, and 76% of preoperative control values in the bupivacaine group, and to 39%, 32%, and 36% in the control group. The speed of recovery of pulmonary function was superior in the bupivacaine group. There were no complications related to the infusion. Continuous extrapleural intercostal nerve blockade with bupivacaine provides safe and effective postoperative analgesia and improves respiratory mechanics after pleurectomy.
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