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Eochagain AN, Moorthy A, O’Gara A, Buggy DJ: Ultrasound-guided, continuous erector spinae plane (ESP) block in minimally invasive thoracic surgery-comparing programmed intermittent bolus (PIB) vs continuous infusion on quality of recovery and postoperative respiratory function: a double-blinded randomised controlled trial. Trials 2022; 23: 792

December 19, 2022

Minimally invasive thoracic surgery (MITS) has been shown to reduce postoperative pain and con-
tribute to better postoperative quality of life as compared to open thoracic surgery (Bendixen et al., Lancet Oncol 17:836–44, 2016). However, it still causes significant post-operative pain. Regional anaesthesia techniques including fascial plane blocks such as the erector spinae plane block (ESP) have been shown to contribute to post-operative pain control after MITS (Finnerty et al., Br J Anaesth 125:802–10, 2020). Case reports relating to ESP catheters have described improved quality of pain relief using programmed intermittent boluses (PIB) instead of continuous infusion (Bendixen et al., Lancet Oncol 17:836–44, 2016). It is suggested that larger, repeated bolus dose may provide superior pain relief, possibly because of improved spread of the local anaesthetic medications (Ilfeld and Gabriel, Reg Anesth Pain Med 44:285–86, 2019). Evidence for improved spread of local anaesthetic may be found in one study which demonstrated that PIB increased the spread of local anaesthetic medication compared to continuous infusions for continuous paravertebral blocks, which are another type of regional anaesthesia technique for the chest wall (Hida et al., Reg Anesth Pain Med 44:326–32, 2019). Similarly, regarding labour epidural analgesia, the weight of evidence is in favour of PIB providing better pain relief compared with continuous infusion (Onuoha, Anesthesiol Clin 35:1–14, 2017).
Since fascial plane blocks, such as ESP, rely on the spread of local anaesthetic medication between muscle layers of the chest wall, intermittent boluses may be particularly useful for this group of blocks. However, until recently, pumps capable of providing automated boluses in addition to patient-controlled boluses were not widely available. To best of our knowledge, there are no randomised controlled trials comparing continuous infusion versus intermittent bolus strategies for erector spinae plane block for MITS in terms of patient centred outcomes such as quality of recovery.
This trial will be a prospective, double-blinded, randomised controlled superiority trial. A total of 60 eligible
patients will be randomly assigned to receive an intermittent bolus regime of local anaesthetic vs a continuous infu- sion of local anaesthetic. The medication will be delivered via an ultrasound-guided erector spinae plane block cath- eter which will be inserted by an anaesthesiologist while the patient is under general anaesthetic before their MITS surgery begins. The primary outcome being measured is the Quality of Recovery (QoR-15) score between the two groups 24 h after surgery. Secondary outcomes include respiratory testing of maximal inspiratory volume measured with a calibrated incentive spirometer, area under the curve for Verbal Rating Score for pain at rest and on deep inspi- ration versus time over 48 h, total opioid consumption over 48 h, QoR-15 score at 48 h and time to first mobilisation.
Despite surgical advancements in thoracic surgery, severe acute post-operative pain following MITS is still prevalent. This study will provide new knowledge and possible recommendations about the efficacy of pro- grammed intermittent bolus regimen of local anaesthetic vs a continuous infusion of local anaesthetic via an ultra- sound-guided erector spinae plane catheter for patients undergoing MITS.
Trial registration:
This trial was pre-registered on ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05 181371. Registered on 6 January 2022. All item from the World Health Organization Trial Registration Data set have been included.
Erector spinae catheter, Continuous infusion, Programmed intermittent bolus, Minimal invasive thoracic surgery, Quality of recovery, Chronic persistent surgical pain