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Pectoral I Block Does Not Improve Postoperative Analgesia After Breast Cancer Surgery: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Dual-Centered Controlled Trial
  1. Jérôme Cros, MD, MSc*,
  2. Patrick Sengès, MD*,
  3. Suzan Kaprelian, MD, FRCPC,
  4. Julie Desroches, PhD,
  5. Caroline Gagnon, MD, FRCPC,
  6. Anaïs Labrunie, MSc§,
  7. Benoît Marin, MD, PhD§,
  8. Sabrina Crépin, PharmD,
  9. Nathalie Nathan, MD, PhD* and
  10. Pierre Beaulieu, MD, PhD, FRCA
  1. *Département d'Anesthésie-Réanimation, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU), Hôpital de la mère et de l'enfant, Limoges, France
  2. Department of Anesthesiology, Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal
  3. Department of Anesthesiology, Centre Intégré de Santé et de Services Sociaux des Îles, Îles de la Madeleine, Québec, Canada
  4. §Centre d'Epidémiologie, de Biostatistique et de Méthodologie de la Recherche (CEBIMER), and
  5. Service de Pharmacologie, Toxicologie et Pharmacovigilance, Unité de vigilance des essais cliniques, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) Limoges, France
  1. Address correspondence to: Jérôme Cros, MD, MSc, Département d'Anesthésie-Réanimation, Hôpital de la mère et de l'enfant, 8, avenue Dominique Larrey, 87000 Limoges, France (e-mail: jerome.cros{at}


Background and Objectives General anesthesia for breast surgery may be supplemented by using a regional anesthetic technique. We evaluated the efficacy of the first pectoral nerve block (Pecs I) in treating postoperative pain after breast cancer surgery.

Methods A randomized, double-blind, dual-centered, placebo-controlled trial was performed. One hundred twenty-eight patients scheduled for unilateral breast cancer surgery were recruited. A multimodal analgesic regimen and surgeon-administered local anesthetic infiltration were used for all patients. Ultrasound-guided Pecs I was performed using bupivacaine or saline. The primary outcome was the patient pain score (numerical rating scale [NRS]) in the recovery unit 30 minutes after admission or just before the morphine administration (NRS ≥4/10). The secondary outcomes were postoperative opioid consumption (ie, in the recovery unit and after 24 hours).

Results During recovery, no significant difference in NRS was observed between the bupivacaine (n = 62, 3.0 [1.0–4.0]) and placebo (n = 65, 3.0 [1.0–5.0]) groups (P = 0.55). However, the NRS was statistically significantly different, although not clinically significant, for patients undergoing major surgeries (mastectomies or tumorectomies with axillary clearance) (n = 29, 3.0 [0.0–4.0] vs 4.0 [2.0–5.0], P = 0.04). Morphine consumption during recovery did not differ (1.5 mg [0.0–6.0 mg] vs 3.0 mg [0.0–6.0 mg], P = 0.20), except in the major surgery subgroup (1.5 mg [0.0–6.0 mg] vs 6.0 mg [0.0–12.0 mg], P = 0.016). Intraoperative sufentanil and cumulative morphine consumption up to 24 hours did not differ between the 2 groups. Three patients experienced complications related to the Pecs I.

Conclusions Pecs I is not better than a saline placebo in the presence of multimodal analgesia for breast cancer surgery. However, its role in extended (major) breast surgery may warrant further investigation.

Clinical Trial Registration This study was registered at, identifier NCT01670448.

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  • Funding was provided by Réseau Québécois de Recherche sur la Douleur, Québec, Canada; Fondation d'Anesthésiologie et Réanimation du Québec, Canada; Fonds de Développement du Département d'anesthésiologie de l'Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada; and Fondation de France, Paris, France.

    This work has been presented in part at Euroanesthesia 2016, London, United Kingdom, May 29, 2016 (presented by J.C., abstract no. 03AP04-3); at the French Society of Anesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine (SFAR) 2016 Annual Meeting, Paris, France, September 24, 2016 (presented by J.C., abstract no. R480 [in French]); and at the World Congress of Pain 2016, Yokohama, Japan, September 27, 2016 (presented by P.B., abstract no. 943).

    The authors declare no conflict of interest.