Hong Kong Med J 2007;13:266-70 | Number 4, August 2007
Intercostal nerve blockade for cancer pain: effectiveness and selection of patients
Frank CS Wong, TW Lee, KK Yuen, SH Lo, WK Sze, Stewart Y Tung
Department of Clinical Oncology, Tuen Mun Hospital, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
OBJECTIVES. To review treatment results of intercostal nerve blockade at our centre and those reported in the literature, and to determine which patients benefit most from this procedure.
DESIGN. Retrospective study.
SETTING. Regional palliative care centre in a regional hospital in Hong Kong.
PATIENTS. Oncology patients who had intercostal nerve blockade at Tuen Mun Hospital from 1995 to 2005 were divided into three groups: (1) those who appeared not to tolerate opioids; (2) those deemed to have inadequate pain control, despite high doses of analgesics; and (3) those referred to avoid early use of high-dose opioids and tolerance.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES. The effectiveness and complications of intercostal nerve blockade, and the extent of benefit derived from intercostal nerve blockade in different patient groups.
RESULTS. This study found that 80% of the 25 patients noted optimal local pain control and 56% experienced reduction in analgesic use after intercostal nerve blockade. About 32% did not notice recurrence of the targeted pain till the end of their lives. None of the patients developed pneumothorax. Most benefit from intercostal nerve blocks were derived by group 2 patients, 90% of whom obtained optimal local pain control (P=0.23) and enjoyed a significant reduction in analgesics use (P=0.019), and in 40% their target pain was controlled till the end of life. Only about one third of group 3 patients had subsequent reduction in use of analgesics, mainly because they had co-existing pain other than at the target selected for treatment. Half (50%) of group 1 patients achieved optimal pain control.
CONCLUSION. Our treatment results from intercostal nerve blockade are comparable to those reported in the literature. The procedure is safe if closely monitored. Good selection of cases is important for optimising the therapeutic gain. The largest benefit is obtained in patients who have inadequate pain control after high-dose morphine.
Key words: Anesthesia, local; Intercostal nerves; Nerve block; Pain clinics; Palliative care
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