12 CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
12.1 Mechanism of Action
Bupivacaine blocks the generation and the conduction of nerve impulses, presumably by increasing the threshold for electrical excitation in the nerve, by slowing the propagation of the nerve impulse, and by reducing the rate of rise of the action potential. In general, the progression of anesthesia is related to the diameter, myelination, and conduction velocity of affected nerve fibers. Clinically, the order of loss of nerve function is as follows: (1) pain, (2) temperature, (3) touch, (4) proprioception, and (5) skeletal muscle tone.
Epinephrine is a vasoconstrictor added to bupivacaine to slow absorption into the general circulation and thus prolong maintenance of an active tissue concentration.
Systemic absorption of bupivacaine produces effects on the cardiovascular system and CNS. At blood concentrations achieved with normal therapeutic doses, changes in cardiac conduction, excitability, refractoriness, contractility, and peripheral vascular resistance are minimal. However, toxic blood concentrations depress cardiac conduction and excitability, which may lead to atrioventricular block, ventricular arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest, sometimes resulting in fatalities. In addition, myocardial contractility is depressed and peripheral vasodilation occurs, leading to decreased cardiac output and arterial blood pressure. These cardiovascular changes are more likely to occur after unintended intravascular injection of bupivacaine [see Warnings and Precautions (5.9)].
Following systemic absorption, bupivacaine can produce CNS stimulation, CNS depression, or both. Apparent central stimulation is manifested as restlessness, tremors, and shivering, progressing to convulsions, followed by CNS depression and coma progressing ultimately to respiratory arrest. However, bupivacaine has a primary depressant effect on the medulla and on higher centers. The depressed stage may occur without a prior excited state.
The duration of local anesthesia after administration of MARCAINE is longer than that observed after administration of other commonly used short-acting local anesthetics. There appears to be period of analgesia that persists after the resolution of the block and return of sensation.
The onset of action following dental injections is usually 2 to 10 minutes and may last up to 7 hours. The duration of anesthetic effect is prolonged by the addition of epinephrine 1:200,000.
Systemic plasma levels of bupivacaine following administration of MARCAINE do not correlate with local efficacy.
The rate of systemic absorption of bupivacaine is dependent upon the total dose and concentration of drug administered, the route of administration, the vascularity of the administration site, and the presence or absence of epinephrine in the anesthetic solution. A dilute concentration of epinephrine (1:200,000) usually reduces the rate of absorption and peak plasma concentration of bupivacaine, permitting the use of moderately larger total doses and sometimes prolonging the duration of action [see Dosage and Administration (2)].
After injection of MARCAINE for caudal, epidural, or peripheral nerve block, peak levels of bupivacaine in the blood are reached in 30 to 45 minutes, followed by a decline to insignificant levels during the next three to six hours.
Bupivacaine appears to cross the placenta by passive diffusion. The rate and degree of diffusion is governed by (1) the degree of plasma protein binding, (2) the degree of ionization, and (3) the degree of lipid solubility. Fetal/ maternal ratios of bupivacaine appear to be inversely related to the degree of plasma protein binding, because only the free, unbound drug is available for placental transfer. Bupivacaine with a high protein binding capacity (95%) has a low fetal/maternal ratio (0.2 to 0.4). The extent of placental transfer is also determined by the degree of ionization and lipid solubility of the drug. Lipid soluble, nonionized drugs readily enter the fetal blood from the maternal circulation.
Depending upon the route of administration, bupivacaine is distributed to some extent to all body tissues, with high concentrations found in highly perfused organs such as the liver, lungs, heart, and brain.
Pharmacokinetic studies on the plasma profile of bupivacaine after direct intravenous injection (MARCAINE is not approved for intravenous use) suggest a three-compartment open model. The first compartment is represented by the rapid intravascular distribution of the drug. The second compartment represents the equilibration of the drug throughout the highly perfused organs such as the brain, myocardium, lungs, kidneys, and liver. The third compartment represents an equilibration of the drug with poorly perfused tissues, such as muscle and fat.
The half-life of bupivacaine in adults is 2.7 hours.
Amide-type local anesthetics such as bupivacaine are metabolized primarily in the liver via conjugation with glucuronic acid. Pipecoloxylidine is the major metabolite of bupivacaine. The elimination of drug from tissue distribution depends largely upon the availability of binding sites in the circulation to carry it to the liver where it is metabolized.
Elderly patients exhibited higher peak plasma concentrations than younger patients following administration of MARCAINE. The total plasma clearance was decreased in these patients [see Use in Specific Populations (8.5)].
Patients with Hepatic Impairment
Various pharmacokinetic parameters of the local anesthetics can be significantly altered by the presence of hepatic disease. Patients with hepatic disease, especially those with severe hepatic disease, may be more susceptible to the potential toxicities of the amide-type local anesthetics [see Use in Specific Populations (8.6)].