Chest Tube-Delivered Bupivacaine Improves Pain and Decreases Opioid Use After Thoracoscopy

Todd L. Demmy, Chukwumere Nwogu, Patrick Solan, Saikrishna Yendamuri, Gregory Wilding, Oscar DeLeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: This study compared a simplified method of intrapleural bupivacaine administration with traditional analgesic therapy to decrease postoperative pain and opioid usage in patients after thoracoscopy. Methods: Thirty patients who had non-rib-spreading thoracoscopic operations under general anesthesia were prospectively randomized to no local anesthetic infusion (control), intermittent bolus (30 mL every 6 hours), or continuous infusion (5 mL/h). Bupivacaine (0.25%) was delivered through the pleural infusion channel of a specially designed single silicone 28F chest tube. Total intravenous fentanyl patient-controlled analgesia (boluses with basal rate) infused in the first 24 hours postoperatively was the designated primary study end point. Escalations of analgesic therapy, including ketorolac administration, were standardized across all groups. Nurses assessed pain control at onset and every 6 hours by visual analog pain scales (VAPS, 100 mm). VAPS were repeated 10 minutes later to assess any opioid or bupivacaine bolus effects. Results: No study-related adverse events occurred. Compared with controls, pooled VAPS scores and 24-hour fentanyl consumption were significantly lower for the intermittent and continuous administration groups (1753 vs 1180 vs 1177 μg/24 h, respective median; p = 0.04) Early (6-hour) VAPS analgesic responses were more certain for intermittent (10 of 10) and continuous (10 of 10) patients than controls (7 of 10, p = .04). Five continuous patients successfully maintained VAPS scores below 20 mm throughout the study vs 3 intermittent and 2 controls (p = .045). Conclusions: Intermittent or continuous intrapleural bupivacaine infused through the chest tube reliably reduces postoperative pain and 24-hour opioid usage in thoracoscopy patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1047
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


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