About 10% to 15% of the adult western population have gallstones. Between 1% and 4% become symptomatic each year. Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is the mainstay treatment for symptomatic gallstones. More than half a million cholecystectomies are performed per year in the US alone. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder through a keyhole incision, also known as a port) is now the preferred method of cholecystectomy. While laparoscopic cholecystectomy is generally considered less painful than open surgery, pain is one the major reasons for delayed hospital discharge after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Administration of local anaesthetics (drugs that numb part of the body, similar to the ones used by the dentist to prevent the people from feeling pain) into the tummy (abdomen) may be an effective way of decreasing the pain after laparoscopic cholecystectomy. However, the benefits and harms of intra-abdominal administration of local anaesthetics is unknown. We sought to answer these questions by reviewing the medical literature and obtaining information from randomised clinical trials with regards to benefits and other comparative study designs for treatment-related harms. When conducted correctly, randomised clinical studies provide the most accurate information on the best treatment. Two review authors searched the literature and obtained information from the studies thereby minimising errors.
We identified 58 trials, of which 48 randomised clinical trials involving 2849 people undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy contributed data to one or more of the outcomes. Most participants in the trials were low anaesthetic risk people undergoing planned laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The choice of whether the participants received local anaesthetic agents (or not) was determined by a method similar to the toss of a coin so that the treatments compared were conducted in people who were as similar as possible.
There were no deaths in either group in eight trials (446 participants) that reported deaths. The studies reported very few or no serious complications in the groups. There were no local anaesthetic-related complications in nearly 1000 participants who received intra-abdominal local anaesthetic administration in the different trials that reported complications. None of the trials reported quality of life, the time taken to return to normal activity, or the time taken to return to work. The small differences in hospital stay between the two groups were imprecise. Pain scores were lower in the participants who received intra-abdominal local anaesthetic administration compared with those who received controls at four to eight hours and at nine to 24 hours as measured by the visual analogue scale (a chart that rates the amount of pain on a scale of 1 to 10).
Quality of evidence
Most of the trials were of high risk of bias, that means that there is possibility of arriving at wrong conclusions overestimating benefits or underestimating harms of one method or the other because of the way that the study was conducted. Overall, the quality of evidence was very low.
Serious adverse event rates were low in studies evaluating local anaesthetic intra-abdominal administration (very low quality evidence). There is very low quality evidence that local anaesthetic intra-abdominal administration reduces pain in low anaesthetic risk people undergoing planned laparoscopic cholecystectomy. However, the clinical importance of this reduction in pain is likely to be small.
Further trials are necessary. Such trials should include outcomes such as quality of life, the time taken to return to normal activity, and the time taken to return to work, which are important for the person undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy and the people who provide funds for the treatment.
Serious adverse events were rare in studies evaluating local anaesthetic intraperitoneal instillation (very low quality evidence). There is very low quality evidence that it reduces pain in low anaesthetic risk people undergoing elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy. However, the clinical importance of this reduction in pain is unknown and likely to be small. Further randomised clinical trials of low risk of systematic and random errors are necessary. Such trials should include important clinical outcomes such as quality of life and time to return to work in their assessment.
While laparoscopic cholecystectomy is generally considered less painful than open surgery, pain is one of the important reasons for delayed discharge after day surgery and overnight stay laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The safety and effectiveness of intraperitoneal local anaesthetic instillation in people undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy is unknown.
To assess the benefits and harms of intraperitoneal instillation of local anaesthetic agents in people undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Science Citation Index Expanded to March 2013 to identify randomised clinical trials of relevance to this review.
We considered only randomised clinical trials (irrespective of language, blinding, or publication status) comparing local anaesthetic intraperitoneal instillation versus placebo, no intervention, or inactive control during laparoscopic cholecystectomy for the review with regards to benefits while we considered quasi-randomised studies and non-randomised studies for treatment-related harms.
Two review authors collected the data independently. We analysed the data with both fixed-effect and random-effects models using Review Manager 5 analysis. For each outcome, we calculated the risk ratio (RR) or mean difference (MD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
We included 58 trials, of which 48 trials with 2849 participants randomised to intraperitoneal local anaesthetic instillation (1558 participants) versus control (1291 participants) contributed data to one or more of the outcomes. All the trials except one trial with 30 participants were at high risk of bias. Most trials included only low anaesthetic risk people undergoing elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Various intraperitoneal local anaesthetic agents were used but bupivacaine in the liquid form was the most common local anaesthetic used. There were considerable differences in the methods of local anaesthetic instillation including the location (subdiaphragmatic, gallbladder bed, or both locations) and timing (before or after the removal of gallbladder) between the trials. There was no mortality in either group in the eight trials that reported mortality (0/236 (0%) in local anaesthetic instillation versus 0/210 (0%) in control group; very low quality evidence). One participant experienced the outcome of serious morbidity (eight trials; 446 participants; 1/236 (0.4%) in local anaesthetic instillation group versus 0/210 (0%) in the control group; RR 3.00; 95% CI 0.13 to 67.06; very low quality evidence). Although the remaining trials did not report the overall morbidity, three trials (190 participants) reported that there were no intra-operative complications. Twenty trials reported that there were no serious adverse events in any of the 715 participants who received local anaesthetic instillation. None of the trials reported participant quality of life, return to normal activity, or return to work.
The effect of local anaesthetic instillation on the proportion of participants discharged as day surgery between the two groups was imprecise and compatible with benefit and no difference of intervention (three trials; 242 participants; 89/160 (adjusted proportion 61.0%) in local anaesthetic instillation group versus 40/82 (48.8%) in control group; RR 1.25; 95% CI 0.99 to 1.58; very low quality evidence). The MD in length of hospital stay was 0.04 days (95% CI -0.23 to 0.32; five trials; 335 participants; low quality evidence). The pain scores as measured by the visual analogue scale (VAS) were significantly lower in the local anaesthetic instillation group than the control group at four to eight hours (32 trials; 2020 participants; MD -0.99 cm; 95% CI -1.10 to -0.88 on a VAS scale of 0 to 10 cm; very low quality evidence) and at nine to 24 hours (29 trials; 1787 participants; MD -0.53 cm; 95% CI -0.62 to -0.44; very low quality evidence). Various subgroup analyses and meta-regressions to investigate the influence of the different local anaesthetic agents, different methods of local anaesthetic instillation, and different controls on the effectiveness of local anaesthetic intraperitoneal instillation were inconsistent.