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Peripheral Nerve Catheterization in the Management of Terminal Cancer Pain
  1. H. B. J. Fischer, M.B., Ch.B., F.R.C.A.,
  2. T. M. Peters, M.B., Ch.B., F.R.C.A.,
  3. I. M. Fleming, M.B., Ch.B. and
  4. T. A. Else, M.B., Ch.B.
  1. Department of Anaesthesia, the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch, Worcester, England
  1. Reprint requests: Dr. H.B.J. Fischer, Department of Anaesthesia, the Alexandra Hospital, Woodrow Drive, Redditch, Worcester B98 7UB, U.K.


Background and Objectives Peripheral nerve catheterization techniques were used in two patients with severe pain associated with the terminal stages of metastatic cancer. The first patient had severe upper limb pain and lymphedema secondary to breast carcinoma, and the second patient had an acutely ischemic leg secondary to pelvic obstruction from an ovarian tumor. The goal of treatment was to relieve the pain, which was resistant to opioid drugs, and to optimize the quality of life that remained, estimated to be only a few weeks.

Methods The first patient received a continuous brachial plexus block via an epidural catheter, introduced by means of a Tuohy needle and a peripheral nerve stimulator to locate the plexus accurately. The second patient required catheterization of both the sciatic and femoral nerves, again with a peripheral nerve stimulator used to locate the nerves prior to inserting the catheters.

Results Analgesia was established with a bolus of local anesthetic and maintained with a continuous infusion of local anesthetic in the first patient. For the second patient, fentanyl was added to the local anesthetic, as it had been shown to improve analgesia in the lower limb in previous work. In the first patient, the analgesia allowed active treatment of the lymphedema and mobilization of the limb, and she remained pain free until her death 2 weeks later. In the second patient, the infusions controlled the pain both before and after surgical amputation of the limb, until the stump was well healed.

Conclusions Peripheral nerve catheterization proved beneficial in two patients who presented with difficult pain management problems and should be more widely considered for the relief of severe cancerrelated pain in both the upper and lower limbs.

  • regional anesthesia
  • peripheral nerve catheters
  • cancer-related pain

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