Improved pain management outcomes with continuous infusion of a local anesthetic after thoracotomy

Grayson H. Wheatley, David H. Rosenbaum, Michelle C. Paul, Alan P. Dine, Michael A Wait, Dan M Meyer, Michael E Jessen, W Steves Ring, J. Michael DiMaio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to determine the effectiveness of an incisional infusion of local anesthetics through a continuous-infusion elastomeric pump for the management of postoperative pain after thoracotomy. Methods: We performed a retrospective comparative analysis of 110 patients undergoing thoracotomies between November 1999 and March 2003. Postoperative pain management with a continuous-infusion elastomeric pump providing local anesthetic into the incisional area was compared with a single-shot epidural in combination with continuous local anesthetic infusion and continuous thoracic epidural infusion. Data sources were reviewed for mean narcotic use, pain score, and complications. Results: After thoracotomy procedures, 38 patients received the ON-Q Pain Relief System (I-Flow Corp, Lake Forest, Calif), 32 received the ON-Q device and single-shot epidural infusion, and 40 received continuous epidural infusion. Demographic attributes, including age, body mass index, and sex were similar between the groups. Preoperative American Society of Anesthesiologists status was significantly higher in the ON-Q group compared with that in the other groups (P = .02). Narcotic use and pain scores were significantly reduced in the ON-Q group compared with that in the epidural group at all time points (P < .001). There were no wound-healing complications or infections associated with the use of the pump. Conclusion: A continuous infusion of 0.25% bupivacaine at 4 mL/h through the ON-Q elastomeric infusion pump is a safe and effective adjunct in postoperative pain management after thoracotomy. The use of the ON-Q Pain Relief System results in decreased narcotic use and lower pain scores compared with continuous epidural infusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-468
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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