MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Giving a common local anesthetic to women undergoing breast removal surgery -- a mastectomy -- reduces their risk of persistent pain after the procedure, a new study says.
More than two-thirds of mastectomy patients experience chronic pain after surgery, which can significantly affect physical activity, physical and mental health, and quality of life. The pain also increases the risk of depression, sleep problems and use of anti-anxiety drugs, according to the authors of the study.
"Unfortunately, chronic pain is a condition that many breast cancer patients endure after mastectomy," said lead author Dr. Mohamed Tiouririne, associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Virginia. "Our findings indicate that intravenous (IV) lidocaine can protect mastectomy patients from developing chronic pain, possibly due to the anti-inflammatory effects associated with the medication."
The findings were scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in New Orleans.
The study included 61 mastectomy patients who were divided into two groups. Some received intravenous lidocaine during surgery and for up to two hours after their operation, while others were given a placebo.
Six months after surgery, 12 percent of those in the lidocaine group and 30 percent of those in the placebo group had developed chronic pain. Lidocaine was associated with a 20-fold decrease in post-mastectomy pain.
However, lidocaine was less effective among women who had breast implants or received radiation therapy. The risk of post-mastectomy pain was 16 times higher among those with breast implants and 29 times higher among those who received radiation therapy, even if they received lidocaine.
"Our study demonstrates the potential long-term protective effects of lidocaine. However, additional studies are needed to assess the effect of lidocaine treatment a year or more after mastectomy, as well as the effect it has on daily activity, mental health and depression in these patients," Tiouririne said in a society news release.
Study findings presented at meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about mastectomy.