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Comparative evaluation of continuous intercostal nerve block or epidural analgesia on the rate of respiratory complications, intensive care unit, and hospital stay following traumatic rib fractures: a retrospective review

Authors Britt T, Sturm R, Ricardi R, Labond V

Received 7 January 2015

Accepted for publication 15 March 2015

Published 27 October 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 79—84


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Stefan Wirz

Todd Britt, Ryan Sturm, Rick Ricardi, Virginia Labond

Department of Emergency Medicine, Genesys Regional Medical Center, Grand Blanc, MI, USA

Background: Thoracic trauma accounts for 10%–15% of all trauma admissions. Rib fractures are the most common injury following blunt thoracic trauma. Epidural analgesia improves patient outcomes but is not without problems. The use of continuous intercostal nerve blockade (CINB) may offer superior pain control with fewer side effects. This study's objective was to compare the rate of pulmonary complications when traumatic rib fractures were treated with CINB vs epidurals.
Methods: A hospital trauma registry provided retrospective data from 2008 to 2013 for patients with 2 or more traumatic rib fractures. All subjects were admitted and were treated with either an epidural or a subcutaneously placed catheter for continuous intercostal nerve blockade. Our primary outcome was a composite of either pneumonia or respiratory failure. Secondary outcomes included total hospital days, total ICU days, and days on the ventilator.
Results: 12.5% (N=8) of the CINB group developed pneumonia or had respiratory failure compared to 16.3% (N=7) in the epidural group. No statistical difference (P=0.58) in the incidence of pneumonia or vent dependent respiratory failure was observed. There was a significant reduction (P=0.05) in hospital days from 9.72 (SD 9.98) in the epidural compared to 6.98 (SD 4.67) in the CINB group. The rest of our secondary outcomes showed no significant difference.
Conclusion: This study did not show a difference in the rate of pneumonia or ventilator-dependent respiratory failure in the CINB vs epidural groups. It was not sufficiently powered. Our data supports a reduction in hospital days when CINB is used vs epidural. CINB may have advantages over epidurals such as fewer complications, fewer contraindications, and a shorter time to placement. Further studies are needed to confirm these statements.

Keywords: thoracic trauma, complications, analgesic, rib fractures

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