Background: The use of regional anesthesia for cancer surgery has been associated with improved oncologic outcomes. One of the proposed mechanisms is a reduction in the use of systemic opioids that may cause immunosuppression. We used a retrospective matched cohort design to compare long-term oncologic outcomes after prostatectomy for cancer performed under general anesthesia with systemic opioids or with epidural anesthesia with epidural fentanyl analgesia. Since epidural fentanyl is quickly reabsorbed systemically, we hypothesized that there would be no difference in long-term oncological outcomes between the 2 groups.
Methods: There were 486 men who underwent prostatectomy performed under epidural anesthesia between January 1, 1991, and January 31, 1996. They were 1:1 matched based on age (±5 years), surgical year (±1 year), and baseline prostate cancer pathology to patients who had general anesthesia with systemic opioids. Long-term cancer outcomes and all-cause mortality were examined. Analyses were performed using stratified proportional hazards regression models, with hazard ratios >1 indicating worse outcome for general anesthesia only compared with epidural anesthesia and fentanyl analgesia.
Results: After adjusting for positive surgical margins and adjuvant therapies, patients in the general anesthesia group were found not to be at increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.60-1.04], systemic tumor progression (HR = 0.92, 95% CI, 0.46-1.84), cancer-specific mortality (HR = 0.53, 95% CI, 0.18-1.58), or overall mortality (HR = 1.23, 95% CI 0.93-1.63) when compared with patients who received epidural anesthesia.
Conclusions: Compared with general anesthesia with systemic opioids, epidural anesthesia and analgesia with fentanyl were not associated with improvement in oncologic outcomes in patients undergoing radical prostatectomy for cancer.