BACKGROUND: Based on the assumption that relatively large volumes of local anesthetic optimize an adductor canal block (ACB), we theorized that an ACB administered as repeated boluses would improve analgesia without compromising mobility, compared with a continuous infusion.
METHODS: We performed a randomized, blinded, controlled study, including patients scheduled for total knee arthroplasty with spinal anesthesia. Patients received 0.2% ropivacaine via a catheter in the adductor canal administered as either repeated intermittent boluses (21 mL/3 h) or continuous infusion (7 mL/h). The primary outcome was total (postoperative day [POD], 0–2) opioid consumption (mg), administered as patient-controlled analgesia. Pain, ambulation, and quadriceps muscle strength were secondary outcomes.
RESULTS: We randomized 110 patients, of whom 107 were analyzed. Total opioid consumption (POD, 0–2) was a median (range) of 23 mg (0–139) in the bolus group and 26 mg (3–120) in the infusion group (estimated median difference, 4 mg; 95% confidence interval [CI], −13 to 5; P = .29). Linear mixed-model analyses revealed no difference in pain during knee flexion (mean difference, 2.6 mm; 95% CI, −2.9 to 8.0) or at rest (mean difference, 1.7 mm; 95% CI, −1.5 to 4.9). Patients in the bolus group had improved quadriceps sparing on POD 2 (median difference, 7.4%; 95% CI, 0.5%–15.5%). However, this difference was not present on POD 1 or reflected in the ambulation tests (P > .05).
CONCLUSIONS: Changing the mode of administration for an ACB from continuous infusion to repeated intermittent boluses did not decrease opioid consumption, pain, nor mobility.