Background: Epidural analgesia (EA) is effective for postoperative pain relief and results in an earlier recovery from postoperative paralytic ileus. This study evaluated the influence of epidural analgesia on the postoperative 30-day mortality and morbidity after open colorectal cancer resection.
Methods: A retrospective observational study was performed at a single, tertiary hospital. All patients with an open colorectal cancer surgery between 1991 and 2008 were identified from the hospital database.
Results: Of the 1,470 patients included in the study, 838 (57.0%) received an EA. Mortality was lower after EA (1.5% vs. 5.7%, p < 0.001). Risk of pneumonia was reduced after EA (odds ratio (OR), 0.45; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.28-0.74; p = 0.001), but not the risk of anastomotic leakage (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.76-1.81; p = 0.465) or surgical site infections (OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.74-1.60; p = 0.663). A subgroup analysis of 427 patients operated on after 2002 (reflecting improved perioperative management) yielded similar results. However, no significant reduction in mortality was observed in the subgroup analysis.
Conclusion: For patients with open colorectal cancer surgery, the application of EA leads to a reduction in pneumonia. Although this is only a retrospective study, it strongly supports the use of EA.