Effects of prolonged peri-neural bupivacaine infusion in rat sciatic nerves (axon and myelin)

John T. Butler, Tobias J. Robinson, Jared R. Edwards, Marjorie R. Grafe, Jeffrey R. Kirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Objective: Peripheral-nerve blocks (PNBs) using continuous-infusion of local anesthetics are used to provide perioperative analgesia. Yet little research exists to characterize the histopathological effects of continuous long-duration PNBs. Herein we test the hypothesis that continuous peri-neural bupivacaine infusion (3-day vs. 7-day infusion) contributes to histologic injury in a duration-dependent manner using an in vivo model of rat sciatic nerves. Methods: We placed indwelling catheters in 22 rats for infusion with low-dose (0.5mg/kg/hr) bupivacaine or normal saline proximal to the right sciatic nerves for 3 or 7 consecutive days. Hind-limb analgesia was measured using Von-Frey nociceptive testing. At infusion end, rats were sacrificed, bilateral nerves were sectioned and stained with hematoxylin and eosin and CD68 for evaluation of inflammatory response, and eriochrome to assess damage to myelin. Results: Animals receiving continuous infusion of bupivacaine maintained analgesia as demonstrated by significant decrease (50% on average) in nociceptive response in bupivacaine-infused limbs across time points. Both 7-day saline and bupivacaine-infused sciatic nerves showed significantly-increased inflammation by HE staining compared to untreated native nerve controls (P = 0.0001, P < 0.0001). Extent of inflammation did not vary significantly based on infusate (7-day saline vs. 7-day bupivacaine P > 0.99) or duration (3-day bupivacaine vs 7-day bupivacaine P > 0.99). No significant change in sciatic nerve myelin was found in bupivacaine-infused animals compared to saline-infused controls, regardless of duration. Conclusions: Long-duration (7-day) bupivacaine infusion provided durable post-operative analgesia, yet contributed to equivalent neural inflammation as short duration (3-day) infusion of bupivacaine or saline with no evidence of demyelination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-338
Number of pages10
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • Continuous
  • block
  • bupivacaine
  • nerve
  • peripheral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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