Benefit-risk assessment of ropivacaine in the management of postoperative pain

Drug Saf. 2004;27(14):1093-114. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200427140-00003.


Ropivacaine is a long-acting amide-type local anaesthetic, released for clinical use in 1996. In comparison with bupivacaine, ropivacaine is equally effective for subcutaneous infiltration, epidural and peripheral nerve block for surgery, obstetric procedures and postoperative analgesia. Nevertheless, ropivacaine differs from bupivacaine in several aspects: firstly, it is marketed as a pure S(-)-enantiomer and not as a racemate, and secondly, its lipid solubility is markedly lower. These features have been suggested to significantly improve the safety profile of ropivacaine, and indeed, numerous studies have shown that ropivacaine has less cardiovascular and CNS toxicity than racemic bupivacaine in healthy volunteers. Extensive clinical data have demonstrated that epidural 0.2% ropivacaine is nearly identical to 0.2% bupivacaine with regard to onset, quality and duration of sensory blockade for initiation and maintenance of labour analgesia. Ropivacaine also provides effective pain relief after abdominal or orthopaedic surgery, especially when given in conjunction with opioids or other adjuvants. Nevertheless, epidurally administered ropivacaine causes significantly less motor blockade at low concentrations. Whether the greater degree of blockade of nerve fibres involved in pain transmission (Adelta- and C-fibres) than of those controlling motor function (Aalpha- and Abeta-fibres) is due to a lower relative potency compared with bupivacaine or whether other physicochemical properties or stereoselectivity are involved, is still a matter of intense debate. Recommended epidural doses for postoperative or labour pain are 20-40 mg as bolus with 20-30 mg as top-up dose, with an interval of >or=30 minutes. Alternatively, 0.2% ropivacaine can be given as continuous epidural infusion at a rate of 6-14 mL/h (lumbar route) or 4-10 mL/h (thoracic route). Preoperative or postoperative subcutaneous wound infiltration, during cholecystectomy or inguinal hernia repair, with ropivacaine 100-175 mg has been shown to be more effective than placebo and as effective as bupivacaine in reducing wound pain, whereby the vasoconstrictive potency of ropivacaine may be involved. Similar results were found in peripheral blockades on upper and lower limbs. Ropivacaine shows an identical efficacy and potency to that of bupivacaine, with similar analgesic duration over hours using single shot or continuous catheter techniques. In summary, ropivacaine, a newer long-acting local anaesthetic, has an efficacy generally similar to that of the same dose of bupivacaine with regard to postoperative pain relief, but causes less motor blockade and stronger vasoconstriction at low concentrations. Despite a significantly better safety profile of the pure S(-)-isomer of ropivacaine, the increased cost of ropivacaine may presently limit its clinical utility in postoperative pain therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amides / administration & dosage
  • Amides / adverse effects
  • Amides / economics
  • Amides / therapeutic use*
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Local / economics
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Ropivacaine


  • Amides
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Ropivacaine