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Effect of Thoracic Epidural Anesthesia on Spontaneous Postinfarction Ventricular Dysrhythmia in Awake Dogs
  1. Quinn H. Hogan, M.D.*,
  2. Enis Novalija, M.D.*,
  3. Alexander H. Kulier, M.D.*,
  4. Lawrence A. Turner, M.D.* and
  5. Zeljko J. Bosnjak, Ph.D*,
  1. *Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  2. Department of Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  1. Reprint requests: Quinn Hogan, M.D., Medical College of Wisconsin, Department of Anesthesiology, 8700 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53226.


Background and Objectives Sympathetic neural activity contributes to the genesis of ventricular ectopic activity, particularly in the setting of myocardial ischemia and infarction, so thoracic epidural anesthesia should diminish ventricular ectopy by blocking sympathetic innervation of the heart. However, the possible antidysrhythmic effect of epidural anesthesia has been studied only in the presence of general anesthesia. We therefore examined changes in spontaneous postinfarction ventricular dysrhythmia during thoracic epidural anesthesia in awake dogs.

Methods A survivable myocardial infarction was created by two-stage ligation of the left anterior descending coronary artery. The following day, multifocal idioventricular tachycardia was the predominant cardiac rhythm. Lidocaine was administered either by thoracic epidural catheter to achieve block of at least the first five thoracic segments or intravenously as a control for direct effects, without concurrent general anesthesia or sedation. Electrocardiographic recordings were analyzed for the number of ventricular ectopic and sinoatrial depolarizations.

Results Epidural and intravenous administration both produced plasma lidocaine concentrations of about 2 mg/mL. There was no change in rhythm following intravenous lidocaine. During epidural anesthesia, total ectopic beats per minute decreased from 167 ± 8 to 135 ± 14 (mean ±SE, P < .05), and the dysrhythmic ratio (ventricular beats/total beats) decreased from 0.93 ± 0.03 to 0.81 ± 0.08 (P < .05). However, ventricular tachydysrhythmia remained the predominant rhythm.

Conclusions Epidural block modestly reduces spontaneous ventricular dysrhythmia in a perioperative setting in dogs following a large myocardial infarction. These findings do not support the choice of thoracic epidural anesthesia for the purpose of preventing or decreasing severe ventricular dysrhythmia.

  • thoracic anesthesia
  • epidural anesthesia
  • lidocaine
  • ventricular dysrhythmia
  • myocardial infarction

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