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Epidural Analgesia versus Intravenous Patient-controlled Analgesia: Differences in the Postoperative Course of Cancer Patients
  1. Oscar A. de Leon-Casasola, M.D.*,
  2. Brian M. Parker, M.D.,
  3. Mark J. Lema, Ph.D., M.D.,
  4. Ronald I. Groth, M.S.§ and
  5. Jasmin Orsini-Fuentes§
  1. *From the Acute Pain Service, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York;
  2. University Health Center of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
  3. Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and Department of Anesthesiology, State University of New York at Buffalo; and
  4. §Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  1. Reprint requests: Dr. de Leon-Casasola, Department of Anesthesiology Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Elm and Carlton Streets, Buffalo, NY 14263.


Background and Objectives This study evaluated 462 consecutive surgical cancer patients who underwent uncomplicated surgeries of the thorax or abdomen, or both, of more than 3 hours duration between 1989 and 1991.

Methods Patients received either epidural analgesia (EA group) with 0.1% bupivacaine, 0.01% morphine sulfate after combined general-epidural anesthesia, or parenteral morphine therapy via intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (IV-PCA) after balanced general anesthesia after the operation. Patients in both the EA (n = 352) and IV-PCA (n = 100) groups were compared for demographics, length of surgical intensive care unit (SICU), and hospital stays. Moreover, the same comparisons were performed when patients were allocated into surgical subgroups: thoracic (TH), upper abdominal (UA), lower abdominal (LA), radical hysterectomies (RH), and RH with colon resection (RHCR).

Results No differences existed with respect to age or sex between the EA and IV-PCA groups. All patients reported adequate dynamic pain control as evaluated with visual analog pain scores (VAS < 4/10), during the treatment periods (5 ± 3 versus 5 ± 2 days, EA versus IV-PCA). Overall, 262 (58%) patients were admitted to the SICU after the operation, 205 (58%) from the EA group and 57 (57%) from the IV-PCA group. Patients in the EA group required less ventilatory support than did those in the IV-PCA group (0.5 ± 0.8 versus 1.2 ± 0.9 days, P < .05). Patients in the EA group also spent less time in both the SICU (1.3 ± 0.8 versus 2.8 ± 0.6 days, P < .05) and in the hospital (11 ± 3 versus 17 ± 5 days, P < .05) than did their counterparts in the IV-PCA group. Significant differences were also found when subgroup comparisons were made.

Conclusions The use of both analgesic techniques was associated with satisfactory postoperative pain control. However, patients receiving epidural anesthesia and analgesia experienced faster recovery as judged by shorter mechanical ventilation time, and decreased SICU and hospital stays, resulting in significantly lower hospitalization costs. The use of perioperative epidural techniques should be considered to expedite recovery of surgical patients, and has the added benefit of being cost effective by reducing hospital stays.

  • epidural
  • patient-controlled analgesia
  • local anesthetic
  • bupivacaine
  • opioid
  • morphine

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