We recently reported that a 6-day continuous peripheral nerve block reduced established postamputation phantom pain 3 weeks after treatment ended. However, the immediate effects of perineural infusion (secondary outcomes) have yet to be reported.
Participants from 5 enrolling academic centers with an upper or lower limb amputation and established phantom pain received a single-injection ropivacaine peripheral nerve block(s) and perineural catheter insertion(s). They were subsequently randomized to receive a 6-day ambulatory perineural infusion of either ropivacaine 0.5% or normal saline in a double-masked fashion. Participants were contacted by telephone 1, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days after the infusion started, with pain measured using the Numeric Rating Scale. Treatment effects were assessed using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test at each time point. Adjusting for 4 time points (days 1, 7, 14, and 21), P < .0125 was deemed statistically significant. Significance at 28 days was reported using methods from the original, previously published article.
Pretreatment average phantom and residual pain scores were balanced between the groups. The day after infusion initiation (day 1), average phantom, and residual limb pain intensity was lower in patients receiving local anesthetic (n = 71) versus placebo (n = 73): median [quartiles] of 0 [0–2.5] vs 3.3 [0–5.0], median difference (98.75% confidence interval [CI]) of −1.0 (−3.0 to 0) for phantom pain (P = .001) and 0 [0–0] vs 0 [0–4.3], and median difference 0.0 (−2.0 to 0.0) for residual limb pain (P < .001). Pain’s interference with physical and emotional functioning as measured with the interference domain of the Brief Pain Inventory improved during the infusion on day 1 for patients receiving local anesthetic versus placebo: 0 [0–10] vs 10 [0–40], median difference (98.75% CI) of 0.0 (−16.0 to 0.0), P = .002. Following infusion discontinuation (day 6), a few differences were found between the active and placebo treatment groups between days 7 and 21. In general, sample medians for average phantom and residual limb pain scores gradually increased after catheter removal for both treatments, but to a greater degree in the control group until day 28, at which time the differences between the groups returned to statistical significance.
This secondary analysis suggests that a continuous peripheral nerve block decreases phantom and residual limb pain during the infusion, although few improvements were again detected until day 28, 3 weeks following catheter removal.