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Effect of Epidural Analgesia on Colorectal Anastomotic Healing and Colonic Motility
  1. Margaret Schnitzler, M.D.*,
  2. Michael J. Kilbride, D.O.** and
  3. Anthony Senagore, M.D., M.S.*,
  1. *From the Departments of Surgery and
  2. **Anesthesiology, Ferguson Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  3. **Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesia, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
  4. Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael J. Kilbride, D.O., Ferguson Hospital, 72 Sheldon Blvd, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.


Background and Objectives. To examine the effect of epidural local anesthetic and narcotic agents on colonic anastomotic healing.

Methods. A prospective randomized study was conducted in a porcine model. Twenty-one pigs undergoing colorectal resection and anastomosis were randomized to receive either bupivacaine (Group 1), morphine (Group 2), or normal saline (Group 3) by intraoperative and postoperative epidural infusion. Colonic blood flow was measured using laser doppler velocimetry and colonic motility assessed with radioopaque markers and daily x-rays postoperatively. Seven days postoperatively, the anastomoses were resected and analysis of bursting pressure and hydroxyproline content performed.

Results. In this porcine model, epidural anesthesia accelerated colonic transit time. Group 1 and 2 animals had significantly faster colonić transit time (3.9 and 4 days, respectively) when compared with Group 3 animals (6 days; p < 0.05, chi-square analysis). There was no statistically significant difference in blood flow, bursting pressure, and hydroxyproline content between the three groups, and no anastomotic complications occurred in any animal.

Conclusions. These findings suggest in this model that postoperative epidural analgesia is a safe technique after colorectal resection and anastomosis.

  • Epidural analgesia
  • anastomotic healing
  • bupivacaine
  • morphine sulfate.

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  • Supported by a grant from the American Society of Regional Anesthesia, Richmond, Virginia.

    The authors acknowledge Susan Petty for administrative support, and Kathy VanKempen, LVT, for support in the laboratory.