To assess safety and efficacy of the regional anesthetic technique paravertebral block for operative treatment of breast cancer, and to compare postoperative pain, nausea, vomiting, and length of hospital stay in patients undergoing breast surgery using paravertebral block and general anesthesia.Background
General anesthesia is currently the standard technique used for surgical treatment of breast cancer. Increasing hospital costs have focused attention on reducing the length of hospital stay for these patients. However, the side effects and complications of general anesthesia preclude ambulatory surgery for most patients undergoing breast surgery. In April 1994, the authors initiated the use of paravertebral block anesthesia for patients undergoing primary breast cancer surgery. A review of our early experience revealed that this regional anesthetic technique enables effective anesthesia for operative procedures of the breast and axilla, reduces postoperative nausea and vomiting, and provides prolonged postoperative sensory block that minimizes narcotic requirements.Methods
A retrospective analysis of 145 consecutive patients undergoing 156 breast cancer operations using paravertebral block and 100 patients undergoing general anesthesia during a 2-year period was performed. Anesthetic effectiveness and complications, inpatient experience with postoperative pain, nausea, vomiting, and length of stay were measured.Results
Surgery was successfully completed in 85% of the cases attempted by using paravertebral block alone, and in 91% of the cases, surgery was completed by using paravertebral block supplemented with local anesthetic. There was a 2.6% incidence of complications associated with block placement. Twenty percent of patients in the paravertebral group required medication for nausea and vomiting during their hospital stay compared with 39% in the general anesthesia group. Narcotic analgesia was required in 98% of general anesthesia patients, as opposed to 25% of patients undergoing paravertebral block. Ninety-six percent of patients having paravertebral block anesthesia were discharged within the day of surgery, compared with 76% of patients who had a general anesthetic.Conclusions
Paravertebral block can be used to perform major operations for breast cancer with minimal complications and a low rate of conversion to general anesthesia. Paravertebral block markedly improves the quality of recovery after breast cancer surgery and provides the patient with the option of ambulatory discharge.