Medial sternotomy is commonly used in cardiac surgery, although it results in intense post-operative pain. The placement of a sternal wound catheter for the administration of local anesthetic represents an effective technique. An initial bolus of tramadol in the sternal wound catheter could potentiate the effect of the local anesthetic and decrease both the post-operative pain and the morphine consumption.
We conducted a prospective, randomized, double-blind study at the University Hospital Center, Dijon, France. Patients requiring scheduled or non-extreme emergency surgery for valve disease, aorta disease, atrial myxoma, or coronary artery bypass graft via sternotomy were included. A sternal wound catheter was inserted at the end of the surgery. The patients were randomized to receive either a 2 mg/kg bolus of tramadol (n=80) or a placebo (n=80) in the wound catheter. The bolus administration was followed by a continuous infusion of 1.25% levobupivacaine for the first 48 hrs following surgery. The patients’ morphine consumption during the first 48 hrs after extubation was recorded. The other investigated variables were the patients’ rescue analgesia, arterial blood gasses, and length of stay in the intensive care unit and in hospital, as well as the incidence of chronic pain at the four-month follow-up point.
The morphine consumption was found to be comparable in the two groups (38 mg vs 32 mg, p=0.102). No effect was found in terms of the arterial blood gasses, lengths of stay, or incidence of chronic pain.
The addition of tramadol to the local anesthetic delivered via a wound catheter following sternotomy did not reduce the patients’ post-operative morphine consumption.