Background: We prospectively evaluated direct analgesia-related costs of continuous sciatic nerve block using either a stimulating or conventional catheter after hallux valgus repair.
Methods: The perineural catheter was inserted through a stimulating introducer either blindly (group Conventional, n= 38) or while stimulating via the catheter (group Stimulating, n= 38). Nerve block was induced with 25 ml of mepivacaine 15 mg/ml, and was followed 3 h later by a patient-controlled infusion of ropivacaine 2 mg/ml (basal infusion: 3 ml/h; incremental dose: 5 ml; lock-out time: 30 min). Rescue tramadol [100 mg intravenous (i.v.)] was given if required. Local anesthetic consumption, need for rescue tramadol and post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV) treatment, and patient's satisfaction were recorded during first 24-h infusion. Cost calculations were based on the acquisition cost of drugs and devices.
Results: Both techniques were similarly effective, but local anesthetic consumption and need for rescue analgesics were lower in the Stimulating group [respectively, 120 vs. 153 ml (P= 0.004) and 21% vs. 60% (P= 0.001)]. The analgesia-related costs for 24 h were similar when 100-ml bags of ropivacaine 2 mg/ml were used (66 euro vs. 67 euro; P= 0.26). When 200-ml bags of ropivacaine were used, the analgesia-related costs were higher in the Stimulating group than the Conventional group (75 euro vs. 55 euro; P= 0.0005).
Conclusions: Direct costs of continuous sciatic nerve block ranged from 55 to 75 euro. Stimulating catheters reduced local anesthetic consumption and need for rescue analgesics. This was only cost effective when 100-ml bags of 2 mg/ml ropivacaine were used, while the cheapest combination was the use of conventional catheters and 200-ml bags of ropivacaine.