The surgical placement of orbital implants for eviscerations, enucleations, and secondary implantations can cause severe postoperative pain that may not be relieved with high doses of narcotics. We analyzed the effectiveness of a method for postoperative pain control in orbital implant surgery using an orbital epidural pain catheter connected to a patient-controlled analgesia bupivacaine hydrochloride pump.
One hundred nineteen patients undergoing orbital hydroxyapatite implant surgery received placement of an orbital epidural catheter for the infusion of local anesthetics at the conclusion of their surgery. Patients were asked to gauge their level of comfort into the folllowing 3 categories: total, some, or no pain relief in the first week after surgery. A separate numerical grading scale was used to further quantitate pain. Blood samples were collected in 4 patients to assess the systemic levels of bupivacaine.
Most patients (88.2%) responded with total or some pain relief, with only 11.8% suffering severe pain. The mean numerical pain score was 2.8, within a range of 0 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain). The average plasma bupivacaine level in the 4 patients in whom this was measured was 0.38 µg/mL, which is well below the toxic level of 4.0 µg/mL. Furthermore, there were only 5 minor complications caused by the catheters, ie, 1 retrobulbar hemorrhage and 4 catheters that did not work. No permanent problems arose from any of the complications.
The orbital epidural pain catheter is an effective means to achieve postoperative pain control after orbital implant surgery. The simple technique of insertion and management of the catheters was well tolerated in our patient population.