While opioids are the mainstay for post-operative analgesia after lower segment caesarean section, they are associated with various untoward effects. Ultrasound guided transversus abdominis plane (TAP) block has been postulated to provide effective analgesia for caesarean section. We evaluated the analgesic efficacy of this block for post caesarean analgesia in a randomised controlled trial.
One hundred thirty-nine mothers undergoing caesarean delivery were randomised to receive TAP block with either 20 ml 0.375% ropivacaine or 20 ml saline after obtaining informed consent. All the subjects received a standard spinal anaesthetic and diclofenac was administered for post-operative pain. Breakthrough pain was treated with tramadol. Post-operatively, all the subjects were assessed at 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18 & 24 h. The primary outcome was the time to first analgesic request. The secondary measures of outcome were pain, nausea, sedation, number of doses of tramadol administered and satisfaction with the pain management.
The median (interquartile range) time to first analgesic request was prolonged in the TAP group compared to the control group (p < 0.0001); 11 h (8,12) and 4 h (2.5,6) respectively. The median (interquartile range) number of doses of tramadol consumed in the TAP group was 0 (0,1) compared to 2 (1,2) in the control group (p < 0.0001). At all points in the study, pain scores both at rest and on movement were lower in the study group (p < 0.0001). Maternal satisfaction with pain relief was also higher in the study group (p 0.0002). One subject in the TAP group had convulsions following injection of local anaesthetic solution. She was managed conservatively with supportive treatment following which she recovered.
TAP block reduces pain, prolongs the duration of analgesia and decreases supplemental opioid consumption when used for multimodal analgesia for pain relief after caesarean section. However, the risk of local anaesthetic systemic toxicity remains unknown with this block. Hence larger safety trials and measures to limit this complication need to be ascertained.
The trial was registered with the Clinical Trial Registry of India (CTRI/2017/03/008194) on 23/03/2017 (trial registered retrospectively).