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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1993 May;37(4):370-4.

Complications related to thoracic epidural analgesia: a prospective study in 1071 surgical patients.

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  • 1Institute of Anesthesiology, University Hospital of Essen, Federal Republic of Germany.


In a prospective study, the complications of 1071 patients scheduled for thoracic epidural catheterization for postoperative analgesia (TEA) were studied. All catheters were inserted preoperatively between segment Th 2/3 and Th 11/12 under local anesthesia. Balanced anesthesia with endotracheal intubation and TEA were combined. Postoperatively 389 patients (36.9%) were monitored on a normal surgical ward. Buprenorphine, 0.15 to 0.3 mg, and if needed bupivacaine 0.375% 3-5 ml h-1 were given epidurally. Primary perforation of the dura occurred in 13 patients (1.23%). Radicular pain syndromes were observed in six patients (0.56%). In one patient (0.09%) respiratory depression was seen in close connection with the epidural administration of 0.3 mg buprenorphine. Although 116 patients (10.83%) showed one abnormal clotting parameter but no clinical signs of hemorrhage, there was no complication related to this group. No persisting neurological sequelae caused by the thoracic epidural catheters were found. In conclusion, continuous TEA with buprenorphine for postoperative pain relief after major abdominal surgery is a safe method without too high a risk of catheter-related or drug-induced complications, even on a normal surgical ward and when one clotting parameter is abnormal.

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