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Anesthesiology. 1991 Sep;75(3):452-6.

Postoperative epidural morphine is safe on surgical wards.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The use of epidural morphine for postoperative analgesia outside of intensive care units remains controversial. In this report our anesthesiology-based acute pain service documents experience with 1,106 consecutive postoperative patients treated with epidural morphine on regular surgical wards. This experience involved 4,343 total patient days of care and 11,089 individual epidural morphine injections. On a 0-10 verbal analog scale, patient-reported median pain scores at rest and with coughing or ambulation were 1 (inter-quartile range 3) and 4 (interquartile range 4), respectively. The incidence of side effects requiring medication were as follows: pruritus 24%, nausea 29%, and respiratory depression 0.2%. There were no deaths, neurologic injuries, or infections associated with the technique. Migration of epidural catheters into the subarachnoid space and into epidural veins each occurred twice. Overall, 1,051 of the 1,106 patients (95%) experienced none of the following problems: catheter obstruction, premature dislodgement, painful injections, catheter migration, infection, or respiratory depression. We conclude that postoperative pain can be safely and effectively treated with epidural morphine on surgical wards.

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