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Bupivacaine administered intrathecally versus rectally in the management of intractable rectal cancer pain in palliative care

Authors Zaporowska-Stachowiak I, Kowalski G, Łuczak J, Kosicka K, Kotlinska-Lemieszek A, Sopata M, Główka F

Received 2 February 2014

Accepted for publication 6 April 2014

Published 6 October 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 1541—1550

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OTT.S61768

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2


Iwona Zaporowska-Stachowiak,1,2 Grzegorz Kowalski,3 Jacek Łuczak,2 Katarzyna Kosicka,4 Aleksandra Kotlinska-Lemieszek,3 Maciej Sopata,3 Franciszek Główka4

1Chair and Department of Pharmacology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland; 2Palliative Medicine In-patient Unit, University Hospital of Lord's Transfiguration, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland; 3Palliative Medicine Chair and Department, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland; 4Department of Physical Pharmacy and Pharmacokinetics, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland

Background: Unacceptable adverse effects, contraindications to and/or ineffectiveness of World Health Organization step III "pain ladder" drugs causes needless suffering among a population of cancer patients. Successful management of severe cancer pain may require invasive treatment. However, a patient's refusal of an invasive procedure necessitates that clinicians consider alternative options.
Objective: Intrathecal bupivacaine delivery as a viable treatment of intractable pain is well documented. There are no data on rectal bupivacaine use in cancer patients or in the treatment of cancer tenesmoid pain. This study aims to demonstrate that bupivacaine administered rectally could be a step in between the current treatment options for intractable cancer pain (conventional/conservative analgesia or invasive procedures), and to evaluate the effect of the mode of administration (intrathecal versus rectal) on the bupivacaine plasma concentration.
Cases: We present two Caucasian, elderly inpatients admitted to hospice due to intractable rectal/tenesmoid pain. The first case is a female with vulvar cancer, and malignant infiltration of the rectum/vagina. Bupivacaine was used intrathecally (0.25–0.5%, 1–2 mL every 6 hours). The second case is a female with ovarian cancer and malignant rectal infiltration. Bupivacaine was adminstered rectally (0.05–0.1%, 100 mL every 4.5–11 hours).
Methods: Total bupivacaine plasma concentrations were determined using the high-performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet method.
Results: Effective pain control was achieved with intrathecal bupivacaine (0.077–0.154 mg·kg–1) and bupivacaine in enema (1.820 mg·kg–1). Intrathecal bupivacaine (0.5%, 2 mL) caused a drop in blood pressure; other side effects were absent in both cases. Total plasma bupivacaine concentrations following intrathecal and rectal bupivacaine application did not exceed 317.2 ng·mL–1 and 235.7 ng·mL–1, respectively. Bupivacaine elimination was slower after rectal than after intrathecal administration (t½= 5.50 versus 2.02 hours, respectively).
Limitations: This study reports two cases only, and there could be inter-patient variation.
Conclusion: Bupivacaine in boluses administered intrathecally (0.25%, 2 mL) provided effective, safe analgesia in advanced cancer patients. Bupivacaine enema (100 mg·100 mL–1) was shown to be a valuable option for control of end-of-life tenesmoid cancer pain.

Keywords: tenesmoid pain, intractable cancer pain, bupivacaine, intrathecal, palliative, local anesthetic, toxicity

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