Impact of ultrasound-guided erector spinae plane block on outcomes after lumbar spinal fusion: a retrospective propensity score matched study of 242 patients

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2022 Feb;47(2):79-86. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2021-103199. Epub 2021 Nov 17.


Background: We evaluated the impact of bilateral ultrasound-guided erector spinae plane blocks on pain and opioid-related outcomes within a standardized care pathway for lumbar fusion.

Methods: A retrospective propensity score matched cohort study. Clinical data were extracted from the electronic medical records of patients who underwent lumbar fusion (January 2019-July 2020). Propensity score matching based on common confounders was used to match patients who received or did not receive blocks in a 1:1 ratio. Primary outcomes were Numeric Rating Scale pain scores (0-10) and opioid consumption (morphine equivalent dose) in the first 24 hours after surgery (median (IQR)). Secondary outcomes included length of stay and opioid-related side effects.

Results: Of 1846 patients identified, 242 were matched and analyzed. Total 24-hour opioid consumption was significantly lower in the erector spinae plane block group (30 mg (0, 144); without-blocks: 45 mg (0, 225); p=0.03). There were no significant differences in pain scores in the postanesthesia care unit (with blocks: 4 (0, 9); without blocks: 4 (0,8); p=0.984) or on the nursing floor (with blocks: 4 (0,8); without blocks: 4 (0,8); p=0.134). Total length of stay was 5 hours shorter in the block group (76 hours (21, 411); without blocks: 81 (25, 268); p=0.001). Fewer patients who received blocks required postoperative antiemetic administration (with blocks: n=77 (64%); without blocks: n=97 (80%); p=0.006).

Conclusions: Erector spinae plane blocks were associated with clinically irrelevant reductions in 24-hour opioid consumption and no improvement in pain scores after lumbar fusion. The routine use of these blocks in the setting of a comprehensive care pathway for lumbar fusion may not be warranted.

Keywords: anesthesia; local; nerve block; pain; postoperative; regional anesthesia; ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Morphine / therapeutic use
  • Nerve Block* / adverse effects
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Propensity Score
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion* / adverse effects
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine