Background: The lidocaine patch 5% was developed to treat postherpetic neuralgia. Anecdotal experience at our institution suggests the lidocaine patch 5% decreases narcotic usage in patients with traumatic rib fractures. This trial was developed to define the patch's efficacy.
Study design: Patients with rib fractures admitted to the trauma service at our Level I trauma center were enrolled and randomized in a 1 to 1 double-blind manner to receive a lidocaine patch 5% or placebo patch. Fifty-eight patients who met the inclusion criteria were enrolled from January 2007 to August 2008. Demographic and clinical information were recorded. The primary outcomes variable was total narcotic use, analyzed using the 1-tailed Mann-Whitney test. The secondary outcomes variables included non-narcotic pain medication, average pain score, pulmonary complications, and length of stay. Significance was defined based on a 1-sided test for the primary outcome and 2-sided tests for other comparisons, at p < 0.05.
Results: Thirty-three patients received the lidocaine patch 5% and 25 received the placebo patch. There were no significant differences in age, number of rib fractures, gender, trauma mechanism, preinjury lung disease, smoking history, percent of current smokers, and need for placement of chest tube between the lidocaine patch 5% and placebo groups. There was no difference between the lidocaine patch 5% and placebo groups, respectively, with regard to total IV narcotic usage: median, 0.23 units versus 0.26 units; total oral narcotics: median, 4 units versus 7 units; pain score: 5.6 +/- 0.4 versus 6.0 +/- 0.3 (mean +/- SEM); length of stay: 7.8 +/- 1.1 versus 6.2 +/- 0.7; or percentage of patients with pulmonary complications: 72.7% versus 72.0%.
Conclusions: The lidocaine patch 5% does not significantly improve pain control in polytrauma patients with traumatic rib fractures.