Continuous Posterior Lumbar Plexus Nerve Block Versus Periarticular Injection with Ropivacaine or Liposomal Bupivacaine for Total Hip Arthroplasty: A Three-Arm Randomized Clinical Trial

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Debate surrounds the issue of whether peripheral nerve blockade or periarticular infiltration (PAI) should be employed within a contemporary, comprehensive multimodal analgesia pathway for total hip arthroplasty. We hypothesized that patients treated with a continuous posterior lumbar plexus block (PNB) would report less pain and consume less opioid medication than those treated with PAI.


This investigator-initiated, independently funded, 3-arm randomized clinical trial (RCT) performed at a single high-volume institution compared postoperative analgesia interventions for elective, unilateral primary total hip arthroplasty: (1) PNB; (2) PAI with ropivacaine, ketorolac, and epinephrine (PAI-R); and (3) PAI with liposomal bupivacaine, ketorolac, and epinephrine (PAI-L) using computerized randomization. The primary outcome was maximum pain during the morning (06:00 to 12:00) of the first postoperative day (POD) on an ascending numeric rating scale (NRS) from 0 to 10. Pairwise treatment comparisons were performed using the rank-sum test, with a p value of <0.017 indicating significance (Bonferroni adjusted). A sample size of 150 provided 80% power to detect a difference of 2.0 NRS units.


We included 159 patients (51, 54, and 54 patients in the PNB, PAI-R, and PAI-L groups, respectively). No significant differences were found with respect to the primary end point on the morning of the first POD (median, 3.0, 4.0, and 3.0, respectively; p > 0.033 for all). Opioid consumption was low and did not differ across groups at any intervals. Median maximum pain on POD 1 was 5.0, 5.5, and 4.0, respectively, and was lower for the PAI-L group than for the PAI-R group (p = 0.006). On POD 2, maximum pain (median, 3.5, 5.0, and 3.5, respectively) was lower for the PNB group (p = 0.014) and PAI-L group (p = 0.016) compared with the PAI-R group. The PAI-L group was not significantly different from the PNB group with respect to any outcomes: postoperative opioid use including rescue intravenous opioid medication, length of stay, and hospital adverse events, and 3-month follow-up data including any complication.


In this RCT, we found a modest improvement with respect to analgesia in patients receiving PNB compared with those receiving PAI-R, but not compared with those who had PAI-L. Secondary analyses suggested that PNB or PAI-L provides superior postoperative analgesia compared with PAI-R. For primary total hip arthroplasty, a multimodal analgesic regimen including PNB or PAI-L provides opioid-limiting analgesia.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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