[Epidural analgesia in thoracic surgery--optimising postoperative rehabilitation].

Research paper by S S Dango, K K Offner, A A Kirschbaum, T T Loop, B B Passlick

Indexed on: 17 Oct '08Published on: 17 Oct '08Published in: Zentralblatt fur Chirurgie


A multimodal perioperative therapy strategy (fast-track) decreases the morbidity of general thoracic interventions and increases postoperative reconvalescence after lung resections. Thoracic surgery is associated with relevant pain and sufficient pain relief is essential for postoperative recovery. Epidural analgesia leads to adequate pain control with only minor side effects and complications and can therefore be a reasonable supplementation in a modern fast-track setting. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the benefits and risks of an epidural catheter placed prior to surgery and to analyse the postoperative recovery of patients undergoing thoracic surgery.277 patients undergoing pulmonary resection through an anterolateral thoracotomy were included in our study. Epidural analgesia was carried out through placement of an epidural catheter equipped with Naropine-Sufenta perfusor prior to surgery. Perioperative clinical parameters as well as postoperative management were evaluated. Pain intensity was documented using the visual analogue scale (VAS). Side effects and complications were summarised in five grades of severity (1-5). Insufficient pain relief was recognised when a VAS > 4 was registered.Median patient age was 59 years, the male / female relation was precisely 2 : 1, on average epidural analgesia was carried out for 4.9 days. Severe complications (grade 4 or 5) were not found. In 37 % of the cases, minor complications and side effects were found, in 1 % clinical relevant complications led to further diagnostic measures. For sufficient pain relief, 10 % of the studied population needed additional treatment with systemic opioids.We have shown that epidural analgesia in patients undergoing thoracotomy leads to sufficient pain control with only minor disadvantages and complications. These are easily mastered without expensive diagnostic or therapeutic interventions. Therefore, epidural analgesia is a safe and helpful tool for increased postoperative recovery within a modern fast-track setting.