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Anesth Analg. 2014 Jan;118(1):225-9. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000019.

Serum free ropivacaine concentrations among patients receiving continuous peripheral nerve block catheters: is it safe for long-term infusions?

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From the *Anesthesia, †Department of Research Programs, and ‡Biostatistics, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda; and §Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management, Rockville, Maryland.



Ropivacaine is a long-acting local anesthetic used for continuous peripheral nerve catheter infusions. Catheters may remain in situ for prolonged time periods. In the present study, patients were enrolled to receive continuous peripheral nerve catheters with measurement of free serum ropivacaine concentrations.


Peripheral nerve catheters were placed for postoperative pain management in trauma patients and infused with ropivacaine 0.2% or bolused with 0.5%. Blood samples were obtained from each subject on days 0 (preinfusion), 3, 5, 7, 10, and every third day until catheter removal. Serum free ropivacaine concentrations were measured via high-performance liquid chromatography and were compared using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.


One hundred thirty-three blood samples were analyzed in 35 patients; all serum free ropivacaine concentrations after infusion initiation (99 samples from 35 subjects) were below 0.34 mg/L (previously determined toxic threshold). The highest concentration achieved in a blood sample was 0.19 mg/L; all other values were <0.09 mg/L. The total amount of drug received during the study ranged from 1146 to 22,320 mg (median of 3722 mg). Catheters remained in situ for a median of 7 days (range: 3-23). From day 0 to 3 (preinfusion), 77% of the study participants had an increase in the serum free-fraction ropivacaine concentrations. The median concentration on day 3 was 0.025 mg/L (95% upper confidence limit for mean: 0.05, range: <0.01-0.19); P < 0.001 compared with preinfusion levels). From day 3 to 5, 68% of the participants had a decrease in the serum free ropivacaine concentrations (median level 0.016 mg/L [95% upper confidence limit for mean: 0.021] P = 0.007 for day 5 compared with day 3).


In this study, free serum ropivacaine concentrations remained well below toxic values despite large amounts of drug administration in combat-wounded patients. The administration of continuous ropivacaine infusions over prolonged time periods, coupled with multiple drug boluses, did not produce toxic or near-toxic serum concentrations.

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