Suboptimal pain management is a common, yet largely unrecognized, problem in the postsurgical patient population. Current treatment protocols heavily rely on opioid use and, though generally effective in providing pain relief, are associated with multiple side effects. The present systematic review aims to offer plastic surgeons insight into the current state of literature on prolonged local anesthetic wound infusion regimens, evaluating both their efficacy in lowering pain scores and the potential opioid-sparing effect.
A comprehensive literature search of the Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases was performed to identify relevant studies published between 1980 and December 2017 evaluating the use of prolonged local anesthetic wound infusion for postoperative pain management in plastic surgery.
A total of 28 articles were selected, including 3904 patients. The overall infection rate in all patients treated with postsurgical local anesthetic wound infiltration was 0.28% (7/2536). There were no reported cases of systemic toxicity. An opioid-sparing effect was found in 92% (12/13) of studies when compared to an active comparator and 88% (7/8) of those comparing to placebo. Pain scores were decreased in 90% (9/10) of studies comparing wound infiltration to narcotic-based regimens and in 67% (6/9) of those comparing to placebo.
Continuous or intermittent wound infusion is safe and effective in reducing pain scores and opioid consumption in plastic surgery. Though the overall pain-lowering effect appears to be modest, ease of catheter insertion and patient satisfaction make this technique an alluring alternative to more validated approaches such as neuraxial or peripheral nerve blocks.