European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Original Article

Nerve-stimulator guided paravertebral blockade vs. general anaesthesia for breast surgery: a prospective randomized trial

M. Z. Naja a1c1, M. F. Ziade a2 and P. A. Lönnqvist a3
a1 Makassed General Hospital, Department of Anesthesia and Intensive care, Beirut, Lebanon
a2 Lebanese University, Faculty of Public Health, Beirut, Lebanon
a3 KS/Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital, Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Stockholm, Sweden

Article author query
naja mz   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ziade mf   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lonnqvist pa   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background and objective: Different anaesthetic techniques are used during breast surgery but are frequently associated with unsatisfactory postoperative analgesia. Paravertebral nerve blockade has recently been proposed as a favourable alternative for this type of surgical procedure, providing excellent pain relief and a reduced incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting. The aim of the present study was to compare the use of a nerve-stimulator guided paravertebral nerve blockade technique to regular general anaesthesia for breast surgery.

Methods: Sixty patients were prospectively randomized to receive either paravertebral nerve blockade or general anaesthesia for breast surgery. The primary end-point of the study was to assess postoperative analgesia (visual analogue scale and supplemental opioid requirements); the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting and length of hospital stay were considered as secondary outcome measures.

Results: Visual analogue scores both at rest and at movement, as well as the need for supplemental opioid administration during the first 3 days postoperatively, were significantly lower in patients handled with paravertebral nerve blockade compared to patients receiving general anaesthesia (P < 0.05). The number of patients free from nausea and vomiting after operation was significantly higher in the paravertebral nerve blockade group (93%) compared to the general anaesthesia group (67%) (P < 0.05). The use of paravertebral nerve blockade was also associated with a significantly shorter hospital stay (median 1 day) compared to general anaesthesia (2 days) (P < 0.01). Both the performance of the block and the intraoperative conditions was well accepted by the vast majority of patients treated by paravertebral nerve blockade (97%).

Conclusion: The use of paravertebral nerve blockade was associated with improved postoperative pain relief, a reduced incidence of nausea and vomiting after operation and a shorter duration of hospital stay compared to general anaesthesia in patients undergoing breast surgery.

(Accepted May 2003)

Key Words: ANAESTHESIA, CONDUCTION, nerve block, paravertebral; BREAST DISEASES, breast neoplasms; POSTOPERATIVE COMPLICATIONS, postoperative nausea and vomiting; SURGERY, breast.

c1 Correspondence to: Zouheir Naja, Head of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Department, Makassed General Hospital, B.O. Box: 11-6301, Riad El-Solh 11072210, Beirut, Lebanon. E-mail:; Tel: +961 1 655466; Fax: +961 1 646589