Background: Ropivacaine is a new local anaesthetic, which compared to bupivacaine is less toxic and shows greater sensory and motor block dissociation. We hypothesised that treatment of postoperative pain with a combined regimen of continuous epidural infusion and Patient-Controlled Epidural Analgesia (PCEA) using ropivacaine could have given better results compared with those we had obtained using bupivacaine.
Methods: Patients undergoing total hip replacement were randomly assigned to two groups. They received epidural analgesia for postoperative pain treatment using ropivacaine, 2 mg x ml(-1) or bupivacaine 2 mg x ml(-1). Both drugs were administered as a constant infusion of 6 ml x h(-1) supplemented by PCEA bolus doses of 2 ml. Patients in both groups received morphine intravenously on demand from a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) device. An independent observer recorded pain scores, intensity of motor block and morphine consumption at regular intervals during the first 24 h after surgery.
Results: Fifty-one patients were evaluated. Ropivacaine and bupivacaine, in similar amounts, provided similar results assessed as adequate to very good postoperative analgesia, whereas motor block was significantly more intense in patients treated with bupivacaine.
Conclusions: Despite similar analgesic effects, epidural infusion of ropivacaine combined with PCEA provides higher patient satisfaction than equal doses of bupivacaine due to lack of motor block.