Background: Previous work from the authors' group characterized a prolonged percutaneous blockade of the sciatic nerve in rats using bupivacaine-dexamethasone microspheres. The goals of the current study are to examine the (1) efficacy of bupivacaine microspheres with and without dexamethasone for intercostal blockade in sheep; (2) scaling of dose and duration with a 100-fold increase in body size from rats to sheep; (3) local toxicity and adverse systemic reactions to bupivacaine microspheres with and without dexamethasone.
Methods: Intercostal blocks were performed percutaneously in sedated sheep. Sensory blockade was measured at repeated time points by absent flinch response to skin pinch. Plasma bupivacaine concentrations were measured using high performance liquid chromatography. Chest wall specimens were examined by light microscopy.
Results: The duration of intercostal blockade increased with bupivacaine dose for animals receiving from 8 to 80 mg/kg of microspheres with and without dexamethasone. At each dose, microspheres containing dexamethasone had a longer duration of block than microspheres without dexamethasone. From 8 to 80 mg/kg, the mean duration of block with bupivacaine-dexamethasone microspheres increased from 4 to 13 days. Plasma concentrations of bupivacaine remained 10-fold below the convulsive EC50 concentration for sheep. Chest wall histology showed a significant granulomatous reaction around bupivacaine microspheres but not around bupivacaine-dexamethasone microspheres.
Conclusions: A single administration of bupivacaine-dexamethasone microspheres produces an effective chest wall analgesia of several days' duration. This may prove useful clinically for thoracic surgery or trauma.