Background: As a broader definition of preemptive analgesia, preventive analgesia aims to prevent the sensitization of central nervous system, hence the development of pathologic pain after tissular injury. To demonstrate benefits from preventive treatment, objective measurement of postoperative pain such as wound hyperalgesia and persistent pain should be evaluated. The current study assessed the role and timing of epidural analgesia in this context.
Methods: In a randomized, double-blinded trial, 85 patients scheduled to undergo neoplastic colonic resection were included. All the patients received a thoracic epidural catheter, systemic ketamine at a antihyperalgesic dose, and general anesthesia. Continuous infusion of analgesics belonging to the same class was administered by either intravenous or epidural route before incision until 72 h after surgery. Patients were allocated to four groups to receive intraoperative intravenous lidocaine-sufentanil-clonidine or epidural bupivacaine-sufentanil-clonidine followed postoperatively by either intravenous (lidocaine-morphine-clonidine) or epidural (bupivacaine-sufentanil-clonidine) patient-controlled analgesia. Postoperative pain scores (visual analog scale), analgesic consumption, wound area of punctuate hyperalgesia, residual pain, and analgesics needed from 2 weeks until 12 months were recorded.
Results: Analgesic requirements, visual analog scale scores, and area of hyperalgesia were significantly higher in the intravenous treatment group (intravenous-intravenous), and more patients reported residual pain from 2 weeks until 1 yr (28%). Although postoperative pain measurements did not differ, postoperative epidural treatment (intravenous-epidural) was less effective to prevent residual pain at 1 yr (11%; P = 0.2 with intravenous-intravenous group) than intraoperative one (epidural-epidural and epidural-intravenous groups) (0%; P = 0.01 with intravenous-intravenous group).
Conclusion: Combined with an antihyperalgesic dose of ketamine, intraoperative epidural analgesia provides effective preventive analgesia after major digestive surgery.