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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 1996;10(10):859-65; discussion 866.

Effects of thoracic epidural analgesia on pulmonary function after coronary artery bypass surgery.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Regional Hospital, University of Trondheim, Norway.



A substantial reduction in lung volumes and pulmonary function follows cardiac surgery. Pain may prevent effective breathing and coughing, and as thoracic epidural analgesia may reduce postoperative pain, we investigated the effect of epidural analgesia on pulmonary function.


Fifty-four male patients, under 65 years and with an ejection fraction of more than 0.5, were randomized into two groups: a control group receiving high-dose fentanyl anaesthesia and an epidural group receiving low-dose fentanyl anaesthesia + thoracic epidural analgesia. Time to awakening and time to extubation were recorded. Further, spirometric data, arterial oxygenation, pulmonary shunt, haemodynamics, use of vasoactive drugs and fluid balance were followed for up to 6 days postoperatively.


Patients with low-dose fentanyl and epidural analgesia awoke (1.6 vs 3.6 h) and were extubated (5.4 vs 10.8 h) significantly earlier than control group patients. A 50-70% reduction in forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1.0) and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) was seen after surgery, but higher FEV1.0 and PEFR on days 2 and 3 were seen in the epidural group than in the control group. Pulmonary shunt and alveolo-arterial oxygen difference increased similarly in both groups, whereas oxygen delivery and mixed venous oxygen saturation were higher in the epidural group. Epidural analgesia gave better control of the postoperative hyperdynamic circulation.


Thoracic epidural analgesia yields a slight, but significant, improvement in pulmonary function, most likely due to a more profound postoperative analgesia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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