Background and objective: Over 50% of patients still experience pain a year after mastectomy with or without lymphadenectomy. We aimed to determine the association between anesthetic technique, acute postoperative pain intensity, and the development of chronic postoperative pain.
Patients and methods: Forty patients were randomly assigned to receive general anesthesia with or without a paravertebral nerve block for modified radical mastectomy. Postoperative pain was assessed on a visual analog scale at 60 minutes and 24 hours; the patients were also asked to respond to a telephone questionnaire on chronic pain 4 to 5 months later.
Results: No significant differences in acute pain were observed. Twenty-nine responded to the telephone questionnaire. Only 1 patient in the paravertebral block group reported chronic neuropathic pain and none had phantom breast pain. Only 1 patient (6.7%) in the paravertebral block group reported chronic neuropathic pain and none had phantom breast pain. In the group that received general anesthesia alone, 1 patient reported phantom breast pain and 6 patients had neuropathic pain, associated with phantom breast pain in 2 cases (incidence of chronic pain 50%; P = .01, Fischer exact test; relative risk, 7.5, 95% confidence interval, 1.0-53.5). The incidences of myofascial pain (neck muscle tightness) were similar in the 2 groups.
Conclusions: Four to 5 months after mastectomy, fewer cases of chronic pain developed in the group operated under general anesthesia with a preincisional paravertebral block than in the group that received only general anesthesia, with postoperative morphine chloride for analgesia.