Comparison of Intravenous and Epidural Clonidine for Postoperative Patient-Controlled Analgesia

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Both epidural and intravenous clonidine are used to provide postoperative analgesia, but in predetermined doses.This double-blind randomized study was designed to 1) determine the clonidine dose inducing pain relief after major orthopedic surgery, when controlled by patient, either intravenously or epidurally; and 2) assess whether these two administration routes are clinically equivalent. At the first complaint of pain after scoliosis correction, patients received an initial dose of 8 micro gram/kg clonidine during 30 min either intravenously (n = 12) or epidurally (n = 12). Then, clonidine was given using a patient-controlled analgesia pump via the corresponding administration route. In both cases, the bolus dose was set at 30 micro gram and the lockout interval at 15 min. Pain (0-100 scale), clonidine requirements, sedation (0-4 scale), and hemodynamics (by fiberoptic pulmonary artery catheter) were measured before and 15, 30, 120, 240, 360, 480, and 600 min after the loading dose was started. Plasma clonidine concentrations and arterial blood gases were determined at the 15th, 30th, 240th, and 480th min. Self-administered and total clonidine doses were larger in the intravenous group than in the epidural group (at 600 min: 372 +/- 110 vs 235 +/- 144 micro gram, and including the initial dose, 814 +/- 114 vs 652 +/- 187 micro gram; mean +/- SD). Clonidine administration resulted in pain relief and sedation in both groups but, for comparable pain relief, sedation scores were lower in the epidural group. No intergroup differences in hemodynamic data were observed, although the decrease in blood pressure occurred earlier in the intravenous group. Plasma clonidine concentrations were higher in the intravenous group than in the epidural group (2.5 +/- 0.6 vs 1.5 +/- 0.5 ng/mL after the initial dose and 2.1 +/- 0.5 vs 1.5 +/- 0.4 ng/mL during self-administration; mean +/- SD). We conclude that analgesia can be achieved postoperatively by both epidural and intravenous clonidine administration. The epidural route is associated with significant reductions in self-administered clonidine dose, and thus in the plasma clonidine concentration, and the level of sedation. Reduction in sedative, but not hemodynamic effects, could be evidence in favor of the epidural rather than the intravenous route when clonidine is given as the sole postoperative analgesic.(Anesth Analg 1995;81:706-12)

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