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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Epidural analgesia is not superior to systemic postoperative analgesia with regard to preventing chronic or neuropathic pain after thoracotomy

Sandra Kampe1*, Joachim Lohmer2, Gerhard Weinreich3, Moritz Hahn4, Georgios Stamatis5 and Stefan Welter5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Ruhrlandklinik, West German Lung Center University Hospital Essen, Tüschener Weg 40, Essen 45239, Germany

2 Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Hospital Cologne-Merheim, University of Witten-Herdecke, Witten, Germany

3 Department of Pneumology, Ruhrlandklinik, West German Lung Center, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany

4 Institute of Medical Statistics, Informatics and Epidemiology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

5 Department of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Endoscopy, Ruhrlandklinik, West German Lung Center, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany

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Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery 2013, 8:127  doi:10.1186/1749-8090-8-127

Published: 13 May 2013

Abstract

Background

To assess prospectively the incidence of chronic and neuropathic pain in patients undergoing anteroaxillary thoracotomy with postoperative epidural analgesia or controlled-release oxycodone pain regimen.

Methods

77 patients who underwent anteroaxillary thoracotomy were enrolled in our observational study. 40 patients received postoperatively a standardized oral analgesic protocol with controlled-release oxycodone and IV non opioid (CRO Group), and 37 patients received epidural analgesia with ropivacaine 0.1% + 1 μg/ml sufentanil (EDA Group) and IV non opioid. The painDETECT questionnaire was completed from the patients with one of the authors (JL) on the 7th postoperative day and six months postoperatively.

Results

The data of 60 patients were eligible for statistical analysis, 28 patients in the CRO Group and 32 patients in the EDA Group. 17 patients did not reach the 6-months follow-up interval (12 drop outs in the CRO Group and 5 drop outs in the EDA Group). 79% percent of patients in the CRO Group and 74% percent of patients in the EDA Group had a numeric rating scale score (NRS) = 0 after 6 months. 22% percent of patients in the CRO Group and 16% percent of patients in the EDA Group experienced a NRS 1–3 6-months postoperatively. No patient in the CRO Group and 9% percent of patients in the EDA Group had 6-months postoperatively a NRS 4–6. Neither in the CRO Group nor in the EDA Group we could detect a neuropathic pain 6 months postoperatively corresponding to a painDETECT score > 18. Overall, with regard to NRS, there was no statistical difference between the two groups (p = 0.13). 90% percent of patients in the CRO Group and 90% percent of patients in the EDA Group showed 6-months postoperatively a painDETECT score < 13 (definitely no neuropathic pain), and 9% percent in the EDA Group and 11% in the CRO Group had a 6-months painDETECt score 13–18 (p = not significant).

Conclusion

These pilot data indicate that epidural analgesia is not superior to systemic postoperative analgesia with regard to preventing chronic or neuropathic pain after thoracotomy.