FDA warns of chondrolysis with continuously infused local anesthetics

The FDA has notified healthcare professionals of 35 reports of chondrolysis in patients given continuous intra-articular infusions of local anesthetics (eg, bupivacaine, chlorprocaine, lidocaine, mepivacaine, procaine, ropivacaine) with elastomeric infusion devices to control post-surgical pain. The local anesthetics (with and without epinephrine) were infused for extended periods of time (48–72 hours) directly into the intra-articular space using an elastomeric pump. Joint pain, stiffness, and loss of motion were reported as early as the second month after receiving the infusion. In more than half of these reports, the patients required additional surgery, including arthroscopy or arthroplasty.

Local anesthetics are approved as injections for the production of local or regional anesthesia or analgesia. The approved drug labels for local anesthetics do not include an indication for continuous intra-articular postoperative infusions or use of infusion devices, such as elastomeric pumps. The FDA has not cleared any infusion devices with an indication for use in intra-articular infusion of local anesthetics.

Health care professionals are encouraged to follow the instructions for use of elastomeric infusion devices, and to not use these devices for continuous intra-articular infusion of local anesthetics after orthopedic surgery.

For more information visit www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm190496.htm.