Seven years of patient-controlled epidural analgesia in a Swedish hospital: A prospective survey

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BACKGROUNDEpidural analgesia for postoperative pain relief needs to be monitored regularly in order to evaluate benefits and avoid potential hazards.OBJECTIVESTo evaluate efficacy and safety profile of a ward-based regimen for postoperative epidural analgesia combining patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA) and continuous epidural infusion (CEI).DESIGNWe conducted a prospective survey in all patients who received postoperative epidural analgesia between March 2004 and February 2011.PATIENTSWe analysed 4663 patients undergoing elective and acute surgery.SETTINGUniversity hospital in Sweden.RESULTSThe median level of catheter insertion ranged from T8 in high abdominal surgery to T11 in gynaecological surgery. Mean infusion rate was 5.4 ± 1.6 ml h−1 and was adjusted for age. Mean duration was 3.3 ± 2.1 days. Eighty-seven percent of the patients rated satisfaction 8 to 10 out of 10 on a post-treatment scale. Reasons for termination were elective in 77.1%, due to inadequate pain relief in 11.4%, due to suspected infection in 0.7% and due to other causes in 10.9%. Of the latter, dislodgement of the catheter (4.0%) and leakage from the puncture site (1.4%) dominated. Catheter reinsertion was performed in 5.3% of the patients, and in 5.0%, the treatment was converted into an intravenous (i.v.) morphine patient-controlled analgesia regimen. The incidence of motor blockade was 1.7%, sedation 2.1%, nausea 12.8% and pruritus 18.8%. Bolus doses accounted for 16% of the total infusion volume. No epidural haematoma was seen. One epidural abscess requiring antibiotic treatment occurred.CONCLUSIONOur prospective survey indicates that PCEA in combination with CEI is effective and relatively well tolerated. The incidence of side effects is generally low and severe adverse events very rare.

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