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Br J Pain. 2015 May;9(2):78-85. doi: 10.1177/2049463714525140.

Epidural analgesia provides effective pain relief in patients undergoing open liver surgery.

Author information

1
Cardiff Liver Unit, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK.
2
Acute Pain Service, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK.
3
Department of Anaesthesia, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Epidural analgesia has been the reference standard for the provision of post-operative pain relief in patients recovering from major upper abdominal operations, including liver resections. However, a failure rate of 20-32% has been reported.

AIM:

The aim of the study was to analyse the success rates of epidural analgesia and the outcome in patients who underwent liver surgery.

METHODS:

We collected data from a prospectively maintained database of 70 patients who underwent open liver surgery by a bilateral subcostal incision during a period of 20 months (February 2009 to September 2010). Anaesthetic consultants with expertise in anaesthesia for liver surgery performed the epidural catheter placement. A dedicated pain team assessed the post-operative pain scores on moving or coughing using the Verbal Descriptor Scale. The outcome was measured in terms of epidural success rates, pain scores, post-operative chest infection and length of hospital stay.

RESULTS:

The study group included 43 males and 27 females. The indication for resection was liver secondaries (70%), primary tumours (19%) and benign disease (11%). While major (≥3 segments) and minor resections (≤ 2 segments) were performed in 44% and 47% respectively, 9% of patients were inoperable. Epidural analgesia was successful in 64 patients (91%). Bacterial colonisation of epidural tip was noticed in two patients. However, no neurological complications were encountered. Five patients (7%) had radiologically confirmed chest infection. Four patients (6%) developed wound infection. One patient died due to liver failure following extended right hepatectomy and cholecystectomy for gall bladder cancer. The median length of stay was 6 days (3-27 days). The extent of liver resection (p = 0.026) and post-operative chest infection (p = 0.012) had a significant influence on the length of stay.

CONCLUSION:

Our experience shows that epidural analgesia is safe and effective in providing adequate pain relief following open liver surgery.

KEYWORDS:

Epidural analgesia; acute pain; drug therapy; liver surgery; prevention and control

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