- 2015;18;E917-E924Brachial Plexus Block for Cancer-Related Pain: A Case Series
Nantthasorn Zinboonyahgoon, MD, Kamen Vlassakov, MD, Christ R Abrecht, MD, Suresh Srinivasan, MD, and Sanjeet Narang, MD.
Neoplastic brachial plexopathy (NBP) is caused by a cancerous infiltration into the brachial plexus, presenting often as severe pain in the affected upper extremity. Such pain can be resistant to medical treatment. Invasive interventions such as brachial plexus neurolysis with phenol or cordotomy may result in severe complications including permanent neurological damage and death. Continuous brachial plexus and paravertebral block with local anesthetic have been reported to successfully control pain from NBP, but these techniques are logistically challenging and frequently have catheter-related complications.
We report a series of patients who received single-shot brachial plexus blocks with a mixture of local anesthetic and corticosteroid (bupivacaine 0.25% with methyl-prednisolone 20 – 120 mg) for the treatment of refractory cancer-related pain in the brachial plexus territory, mostly from NBP. Theoretically, such blocks could provide immediate analgesia from the local anesthetic and a longer-lasting analgesia from the slow-release steroids.
Responders reported a sustained decrease in their pain (lasting from 2 weeks to 10 months), a significant decrease in their opioid and non-opioid (ketamine, gabapentin) consumption, overall satisfaction with the block, and unchanged or improved function of their limb. The ideal candidate for this procedure is a patient who has pain that is predominantly neuropathic from a lesion within the brachial plexus and with anatomy amenable to ultrasound-guided nerve block.
Our case series suggests that, in the appropriately selected patient, this technique can safely and effectively alleviate pain from NBP. The procedure is simple, spares limb function, and can be diagnostic, predicting response to more complex procedures. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report using this technique for NBP.