Major shoulder surgery often results in severe post-operative pain and a variety of interventions have been developed in an attempt to address this. The continuous slow infusion of a local anaesthetic directly into the operative site has recently gained popularity but it is expensive and as yet there is little conclusive evidence that it provides additional benefits over other methods of post-operative pain management.
This will be a randomised, placebo-controlled trial involving 158 participants. Following diagnostic arthroscopy, all participants will undergo arthroscopic subacromial decompression with or without rotator cuff repair, all operations performed by a single surgeon. Participants, the surgeon, nurses caring for the patients and outcome assessors will be blinded to treatment allocation. All participants will receive a pre-incision bolus injection of 20 mls of ropivacaine 1% into the shoulder and an intra-operative intravenous bolus of parecoxib 40 mg. Using concealed allocation participants will be randomly assigned to active treatment (local anaesthetic ropivacaine 0.75%) or placebo (normal saline) administered continuously into the subacromial space by an elastomeric pump at 5 mls per hour post-operatively. Patient controlled opioid analgesia and oral analgesics will be available for breakthrough pain. Outcome assessment will be at 15, 30 and 60 minutes, 2, 4, 8, 12, 18 and 24 hours, and 2 or 4 months for decompression or decompression plus repair respectively.
The primary end point will be average pain at rest over the first 12-hour post-operative period on a verbal analogue pain score. Secondary end points will be average pain at rest over the second 12-hour post-operative period, maximal pain at rest over the first and second 12-hour periods, amount of rescue medication used, length of inpatient stay and incidence of post-operative adhesive capsulitis.
The results of this trial will contribute to evidence-based recommendations for the effectiveness of pain management modalities following arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery. If the local anaesthetic pain-buster provides no additional benefits over placebo then valuable resources can be put to better use in other ways.
Australian Clinical Trials Register Number ACTR12606000195550