Intrathecal Trialing of Continuous Infusion Combination Therapy With Hydromorphone and Bupivacaine in Failed Back Surgery Patients

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Intrathecal (IT) trial is a prognostic interventional pain management procedure employed to determine the potential success of treating intractable pain with an implantable infusion device system. There is a dearth of data regarding trials with continuous infusion of combination therapy (e.g. opioid combined with local anesthetic). The objective of the this study was to determine the overall outcomes of continuous infusion IT trials and factors influencing long-term success of IT therapy in patients with chronic intractable pain post-laminectomy.

Materials and Methods

This is a retrospective analysis of all patients with lumbar failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) who were trialed with a combination of hydromorphone and bupivacaine with a temporary externalized IT catheter from March 2007 to June 2014.


From a cohort of 62 patients fulfilling the inclusion criteria, 54 (87.10%) patients had successful IT trials. No significant differences were found between successful and failed trial patients with regards to age, sex, pre-trial pain numeric rating scale scores, pre-trial morphine equivalent daily dose, or trial dosages. Significant positive correlations were found between pretrial oral opioid intake and end of trial hydromorphone dose and hydromorphone dose escalation at 12 months and 24 months.


Patients with refractory low back pain due to FBSS who underwent successful combination IT trial with hydromorphone and bupivacaine infused through a temporary IT catheter had significantly improved pain intensity scores following permanent implant. Higher pre-trial MEDD was correlated with higher trial and post-implant opioid doses and higher rates of opioid dose escalation post-implant.

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