Reducing Pain and Disability After Breast Cancer Surgery


The purpose of this study is to determine if the combination of thoracic paravertebral block and multimodal analgesia will decrease chronic pain and arm morbidity in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery with lymph node dissection as compared to patients receiving local anesthesia with multimodal analgesia.

Full Title of Study: “Efficacy of Thoracic Paravertebral Block in Reducing Chronic Pain and Disability After Breast Cancer Surgery With Axillary Lymph Node Dissection”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Prevention
    • Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: September 2012

Detailed Description

Sixty percent of breast cancer patients undergo some form of breast surgery in the treatment of the early stages of the disease. The recovery from surgery can be associated with severe disabling pain persisting beyond 12 months after surgery. Research in pain has shown that early intervention of acute pain can prevent long term chronic pain.

At The Ottawa Hospital, patients receive either paravertebral blocks or wound infiltration with local anesthetic for postoperative pain management. We would like to compare these two methods of pain control to determine an analgesic technique that will reduce acute and chronic pain, and maximally improve long-term functional recovery and patient's quality of life.


  • Procedure: Thoracic Paravertebral Block (TPVB)
    • The middle of the spinous process above the nerve to be blocked is located and the overlying skin marked 2.5 centimeters lateral to this. Subcutaneous lidocaine is injected and a 22 G Tuohy tipped 8 cm needle is inserted at this level and advanced to identify the transverse process. The needle is then moved caudad off the transverse process and inserted a centimeter into the paravertebral space. Five mls of 0.5% ropivacaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine is injected at each paravertebral space. Blocks adjacent to the C7-T5 spinous processes are performed. For patients randomized to the LA group: The patients are identically positioned, sedated and identical landmarks are used to perform sham paravertebral blocks via a subcutaneous saline injection of 0.5mL with a 25G needle at each level.
  • Procedure: Local Anesthetic
    • At the conclusion of surgery, the surgeon will infiltrate the incision with 10 ml of saline 0.9% (TPVB group) or 0.5% ropivacaine (LA group). An axillary drain will be placed. After closure of the wound, 20 ml of saline 0.9% (TPVB group) or 0.5% ropivacaine (LA group) will be injected through the drain and the drain clamped for 30 minutes after injection.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Thoracic PVB + multimodal anesthesia
    • Thoracic PVB + multimodal anesthesia
  • Active Comparator: Local anesthetic + multi-modal analgesia
    • Local anesthetic + multi-modal analgesia

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • The proportion of individuals reporting chronic postoperative pain 12 months following breast cancer surgery with lymph node dissection. Chronic pain will be defined by a Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) score of >3 (rest or with arm movement).
    • Time Frame: 1 year

Secondary Measures

  • Arm morbidity, shoulder range of motion, quality of analgesia, arm lymphedema, time to meet discharge criteria, quality of recovery, quality of life, incidence of postoperative side effects.
    • Time Frame: 1 year

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Patients with diagnosis of breast cancer
  • Scheduled for elective modified radical mastectomy, simple mastectomy with SLNB, breast conserving surgery (ie lumpectomy, segmental mastectomy) with ALND or ALND alone (after positive SLNB)

Exclusion Criteria

  • American Society of Anesthesiologist (ASA) class 4 or 5
  • Patients with contraindications to TPVB
  • Allergy to study medications
  • Chronic opioid use defined as daily consumption of greater than 20 mg of oral morphine or equivalent for >7days
  • Renal insufficiency defined as a creatinine clearance <40ml/min as calculated using the Cockroft-Gault formula
  • Preoperative radiation therapy
  • Inability to achieve normal shoulder range of motion as defined as <100o of shoulder abduction or flexion

Gender Eligibility: Female

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Collaborator
    • Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Michelle Chiu, MD, Principal Investigator, The Ottawa Hospital / Ottawa Health Research Institute

Citations Reporting on Results

Chiu M, Bryson GL, Lui A, Watters JM, Taljaard M, Nathan HJ. Reducing persistent postoperative pain and disability 1 year after breast cancer surgery: a randomized, controlled trial comparing thoracic paravertebral block to local anesthetic infiltration. Ann Surg Oncol. 2014 Mar;21(3):795-801. doi: 10.1245/s10434-013-3334-6. Epub 2013 Oct 29.

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