Background: Parenteral administration of narcotics has been the mainstay for postoperative pain relief in patients undergoing lumbar laminectomy. However, this may lead to respiratory depression and nausea, which may be hazardous in these patients.
Methods: We evaluated the efficacy of wound infiltration with bupivacaine in 45 consecutive patients undergoing elective single-level lumbar laminectomy for intervertebral disc prolapse in a prospective, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Prior to wound closure, the muscle and subcutaneous tissues were infiltrated with bupivacaine 0.375% or sterile physiologic saline. Postoperatively, the patients were assessed hourly for pain and an analgesic administered if the patient had moderate or severe pain.
Results: All the 21 placebo recipients required analgesics in the first 9 hours postoperatively, compared to only 11 of 24 patients who received bupivacaine (p < 0.001). The mean (standard deviation) time before administration of the first dose of analgesic postoperatively in the bupivacaine and placebo recipients was 807.7 (567.6) minutes and 181.4 (110.1) minutes, respectively (p < 0.001). No adverse effects of local wound infiltration were noted.
Conclusions: Local wound infiltration with bupivacaine is a safe and effective method for providing postoperative pain relief and reducing narcotic use in patients undergoing lumbar laminectomy.