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Randomized clinical trial of epidural, spinal or patient‐controlled analgesia for patients undergoing laparoscopic colorectal surgery. BJS 2011; 98: 1068-1078.

Published: 17th May 2011

Authors: B. F. Levy, M. J. Scott, W. Fawcett, C. Fry, T. A. Rockall


Epidural analgesia is considered fundamental in enhanced recovery protocols (ERPs). However, its value in laparoscopic colorectal surgery is unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of different analgesic regimens on outcomes following laparoscopic colorectal surgery in fluid‐optimized patients treated within an ERP.


Ninety‐nine patients were randomized to receive epidural, spinal or patient‐controlled (PCA) analgesia. The primary endpoints were time until medically fit for discharge and length of hospital stay. Secondary endpoints included return of bowel function, pain scores, and changes in pulmonary function and quality of life.


Ninety‐one patients completed the study. The median length of hospital stay was 3·7 days following epidural analgesia, significantly longer than that of 2·7 and 2·8 days for spinal analgesia and PCA respectively (P = 0·002 and P < 0·001). There was also a slower return of bowel function with epidural analgesia than with spinal analgesia and PCA. Epidural analgesia did not offer better preservation of pulmonary function or quality of life, although pain scores were higher in the PCA group in the early postoperative period.


Many of the outcomes in the epidural analgesia group were significantly worse than those in the spinal analgesia and PCA groups, suggesting that either of these two modalities could replace epidural analgesia. Registration number: NCT 18926278 (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov). Copyright © 2011 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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