Objective: Minimally invasive pectus excavatum repair is a common and painful surgical procedure in children and adolescents. Adequate postoperative pain therapy is important far beyond the immediate postoperative period because sensitization to painful stimuli can cause chronic pain or higher pain levels during subsequent surgical procedures. Although data in adults favor thoracic epidural anesthesia for pain control in thoracotomy, data for adolescents and children are scarce. We tested the hypothesis that pain relief with thoracic epidural analgesia was superior to that with intravenous patient-controlled analgesia after minimally invasive pectus excavatum repair in children and adolescents.
Methods: We performed a prospective randomized trial with adolescents who had undergone minimally invasive pectus excavatum repair to compare postoperative pain using two different postoperative pain therapy settings: intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (n = 20) with morphine versus continuous thoracic epidural analgesia (n = 20) with 0.2% ropivacain containing 2 microg/mL fentanyl.
Results: Forty patients (32 male and 8 female patients) aged 10 to 28 years were studied. The thoracic epidural analgesia group showed lower pain scores (P < .0001) and required less additional pain medication in conjunction with greater well-being postoperatively (P < .0001) compared with patients receiving patient-controlled intravenous morphine. There was no significant difference regarding the incidence of sedation (P = .38), nausea (P = .10), and pruritus (P = .72) in both groups.
Conclusions: For adolescents undergoing minimally invasive pectus excavatum repair, thoracic epidural analgesia was superior to intravenous patient-controlled analgesia for postoperative analgesia, resulting in lower postoperative pain scores in conjunction with greater well-being.