Many attempts have been made to increase the duration of local anesthetic action. One avenue of investigation has focused on encapsulating local anesthetics within carrier molecules to increase their residence time at the site of action. This article aims to review the literature surrounding the recently approved formulation of bupivacaine, which consists of bupivacaine loaded in multivesicular liposomes. This preparation increases the duration of local anesthetic action by slow release from the liposome and delays the peak plasma concentration when compared to plain bupivacaine administration. Liposomal bupivacaine has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for local infiltration for pain relief after bunionectomy and hemorrhoidectomy. Studies have shown it to be an effective tool for postoperative pain relief with opioid sparing effects and it has also been found to have an acceptable adverse effect profile. Its kinetics are favorable even in patients with moderate hepatic impairment, and it has been found not to delay wound healing after orthopedic surgery. More studies are needed to establish its safety and efficacy for use via intrathecal, epidural, or perineural routes. In conclusion, liposomal bupivacaine is effective for treating postoperative pain when used via local infiltration when compared to placebo with a prolonged duration of action, predictable kinetics, and an acceptable side effect profile. However, more adequately powered trials are needed to establish its superiority over plain bupivacaine.
Keywords: efficacy; liposomal bupivacaine; pharmacodynamics; pharmacokinetics; postoperative pain; safety.