Does a thoracic epidural confer any additional benefit following video-assisted thoracoscopic pleurectomy for primary spontaneous pneumothorax?

Fernandez, Marta I.; Martin-Ucar, Antonio E.; Lee, H.D.; West, Kevin J.; Wyatt, Richard; Waller, David A.
April 2005
European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery;Apr2005, Vol. 27 Issue 4, p671
Academic Journal
Abstract: Objective: Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) bullectomy and apical pleurectomy has become the preferred procedure for recurrent or complicated primary spontaneous pneumothorax (SPN). Although thoracic epidural analgesia is the gold standard after open thoracic surgical procedures, its use in the management of minimally invasive procedures in this young population has not been extensively studied. Methods: From 1997 to 2003, a single surgeon performed 118 consecutive VATS pleurectomies for primary SPN. The perioperative course, analgesic requirements, hospital stay and long-term complications were compared for 22 (18%) patients in whom a patient-controlled thoracic epidural was used for analgesia and 96 (82%) patients who did not receive an epidural (parenteral opioids). A four-point verbal pain score (0–3) was recorded hourly in every patient at rest and on coughing following surgery. Results: One patient required additional surgery for evacuation of haemothorax. There were no mortalities or other major complications in the series. Overall median hospital stay was 3 (range 1–10) days, the incidence of long-term pain at 3 months was 6%, and the long-term recurrence rate was 3%. Despite parenteral opioids being discontinued significantly earlier than epidurals, pain scores were similar in both groups. There were no significant differences in the duration of air-leaks, length of drainage, hospital stay, long-term pain and long-term paraesthesias between the two groups. Conclusions: Thoracic epidural analgesia does not contribute significantly to minimize neither perioperative nor long-term pain after VATS pleurectomy for primary SPN. The additional resource requirement in these patients is not justified.


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