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Infections From Extended Epidural Catheterization in Ambulatory Patients
  1. Antonio J. Aldrete, M.D., M.S. and
  2. Kaye S. Williams, R.N., B.S.
  1. From Health Destinations, The Institute for the Study of Treatment of Arachnoiditis, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and the Department of Anesthesiology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
  1. Reprint requests: J. Antonio Aldrete, M.D., M.S., 350 Blue Mountain Beach Road, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459.


Background and Objectives Patients with severe and noncancer pain were treated with prolonged epidural infusions of analgesics in their homes, and the incidence of infection was determined.

Methods In 504 adult patients, 3,164 polyamide lumbar epidural catheters were infused with analgesics of low-dose bupivacaine and fentanyl intermittenly from 2 to 80 days at their home. When patients developed fever, headache, back pain, and leukocytosis, the presence of infection was confirmed by either computed tomographic scan, epidurogram, or sonogram.

Results Nine infections (0.27%) occurred. Of these, two were epidural abscesses, two were fascitis, and five were cellulitis. Staphylococcus epidermidis was cultured in every case. All of them were treated with 1.5 g intravenous cefuroxime sodium every 8 hours. None of the patients required surgical intervention. In a subgroup of patients treated with the first 1,462 infused catheters, seven infections developed (0.4%), whereas in the subsequent 1,702 cases that received prophylactic penicillin or erythromycin, in 6-day cycles, there were only two infections (0.11%).

Conclusions Temporary epidural infusions of analgesics up to 80 days are feasible in ambulatory patients with a low rate of infections. Preliminary observations appear to indicate that prophylactic antibiotics given intermittenly further reduce the feasibility of infections. However, these observations may not apply to longer-lasting epidural infusions.

  • Epidural infusions
  • infections
  • complications
  • prophylactic antibiotics
  • infusion pumps

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