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Conn Med. 1998 Aug;62(8):461-4.

Pain control following elective gastrointestinal surgery: is epidural anesthesia warranted?

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Hartford Hospital, USA.

Abstract

Fifty-nine patients undergoing elective major gastrointestinal surgery were entered into a prospective, randomized trial between January 1993 and July 1994 comparing the effectiveness, side effects, and hospital costs of postoperative epidural anesthesia (Group 1, n = 29) and intramuscular narcotic injections (Group 2, n = 30). Epidural catheters were inserted by a team that supervised catheter care and infusion rates in the postoperative period. The nonepidural group received intramuscular injections on a regular basis. Patients filled out visual analog scales to measure levels of pain ( 1 = minimal, 10 = maximal) every eight hours. Patient activity, bowel, and urinary function were recorded by the nursing staff. Control of pain (as measured by the daily average visual analog score) was more effective in Group 1 (P < .001) on postoperative days 1-3 (1.3 vs 3.6 on day 1, 0.7 vs 2.6 on day 2, 0.9 vs 3 on day 3). There was no significant difference in mean values between groups 1 and 2 with respect to first ambulation on the hospital ward, onset of liquid diet, intake of solid food, first spontaneous voiding, first bowel movement, length of hospitalization, or charge of hospitalization ($13,439 +/- 7,452 vs $11,821 +/- 6,630). We conclude that epidural anesthesia significantly lessens incisional pain following major elective lower gastrointestinal surgery when compared to analgesic injections alone. However, while not statistically significant, the overall charge was increased by 14% in the epidural group. This finding should be examined in light of the relatively low pain level in patients receiving narcotic injections alone.

PMID:
9753804
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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