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Br J Anaesth. 2011 Aug;107(2):164-70. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer100. Epub 2011 May 17.

Reduction in mortality after epidural anaesthesia and analgesia in patients undergoing rectal but not colonic cancer surgery: a retrospective analysis of data from 655 patients in central Sweden.

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Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care, University Hospital, Orebro, Sweden.



There is some evidence that epidural analgesia (EDA) reduces tumour recurrence after breast and prostatic cancer surgery. We assessed whether EDA reduces long-term mortality after colorectal cancer surgery.


All patients having colorectal cancer surgery between January 2004 and January 2008 at Linköping and Örebro were included. Exclusion criteria were: emergency operations, laparoscopic-assisted colorectal resection, and stage 4 cancer. Statistical information was obtained from the Swedish National Register for Deaths. Patients were analysed in two groups: EDA group or patient-controlled analgesia (PCA group) as the primary method of analgesia.


A total of 655 patients could be included. All-cause mortality for colorectal cancer (stages 1-3) was 22.7% (colon: 20%, rectal: 26%) after 1-5 yr of surgery. Multivariate regression analysis identified the following statistically significant factors for death after colon cancer (P<0.05): age (>72 yr) and cancer stage 3 (compared with stage 1). A similar model for rectal cancer found that age (>72 yr) and the use of PCA rather than EDA and cancer stages 2 and 3 (compared with stage 1) were associated with a higher risk for death. No significant risk of death was found for colon cancer when comparing EDA with PCA (P=0.23), but a significantly increased risk of death was seen after rectal cancer when PCA was used compared with EDA (P=0.049) [hazards ratio: 0.52 (0.27-1.00)].


We found a reduction in all-cause mortality after rectal but not colon cancer in patients having EDA compared with PCA technique.

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