Effect of Local Anesthetic Injections on Subjective Pain Scales in Pediatric Tonsillectomies: A Meta-analysis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022 Apr 26;1945998221094228. doi: 10.1177/01945998221094228. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To assess the effect of local anesthetic injection on subjective pain scores for pediatric tonsillectomies on postoperative days (PODs) 0 and 1.

Data sources: A comprehensive literature search was conducted with the PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Scopus databases.

Review methods: A 2-researcher team following the PRISMA guidelines performed a systematic review and meta-analysis. Studies with original data and a saline injection control arm were selected. Corresponding authors were contacted for missing data. The collated data were analyzed with RevMan version 5.4 (Review Manager; Cochrane Collaboration). Random effects modeling and standard mean difference were utilized to control for heterogeneity. Surgical technique subgroup analysis was performed.

Results: A total of 319 publications were identified, and 8 articles with 13 experimental arms (627 participants) were selected for meta-analysis. Local anesthetic injection was compared with placebo with saline injection. The standard mean difference for POD 0 pain was -0.81 (95% CI, -1.16 to -0.46; P < .00001) in favor of local anesthetic. The standard mean difference for POD 1 was -1.13 (95% CI, -1.48 to -0.78; P < .00001) in favor of local anesthetic. Subgroup analysis by surgical technique showed a less robust effect for cautery excision (-1.01 [95% CI, -1.37 to -0.66]) vs cold excisional technique (-1.19 [95% CI, -1.64 to -0.74]), with or without cautery-based hemostasis.

Conclusions: A local anesthetic injection during a pediatric tonsillectomy reduces postoperative pain on POD 0 and 1. Further analysis on total narcotic use and postoperative complications would benefit surgeon decision making.

Keywords: local anesthesia; pain; pain scale; pediatric; tonsillectomy.