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Anaesthesia. 2011 Jun;66(6):465-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2011.06700.x. Epub 2011 Apr 4.

Comparison of analgesic efficacy of subcostal transversus abdominis plane blocks with epidural analgesia following upper abdominal surgery.

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Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Leicester General Hospital, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, UK.


Subcostal transversus abdominis plane (TAP) catheters have been reported to be an effective method of providing analgesia after upper abdominal surgery. We compared their analgesic efficacy with that of epidural analgesia after major upper abdominal surgery in a randomised controlled trial. Adult patients undergoing elective open hepatobiliary or renal surgery were randomly allocated to receive subcostal TAP catheters (n=29) or epidural analgesia (n=33), in addition to a standard postoperative analgesic regimen comprising of regular paracetamol and tramadol as required. The TAP group patients received bilateral subcostal TAP catheters and 1 bupivacaine 0.375% bilaterally every 8 h. The epidural group patients received an infusion of bupivacaine 0.125% with fentanyl 2 μ . The primary outcome measure was visual analogue pain scores during coughing at 8, 24, 48 and 72 h after surgery. We found no significant differences in median (IQR [range]) visual analogue scores during coughing at 8 h between the TAP group (4.0 (2.3-6.0 [0-7.5])) and epidural group (4.0 (2.5-5.3) [0-8.5])) and at 72 h (2.0 (0.8-4.0 [0-5]) and 2.5 (1.0-5.0 [0-6]), respectively). Tramadol consumption was significantly greater in the TAP group (p=0.002). Subcostal TAP catheter boluses may be an effective alternative to epidural infusions for providing postoperative analgesia after upper abdominal surgery.

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