Epidural pain management in advanced gastric cancer with inoperable malignant bowel obstruction

BMJ Case Rep. 2023 Jul 24;16(7):e253665. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2022-253665.


Presented is a case of a man in his 20s with gastric cancer with metastasis to a perineal nodule and the splenic flexure (previously resected due to acute bowel obstruction) who presented with prolonged, intermittent, inoperable bowel obstruction likely due to adhesions, exacerbated by functional ileus due to substantial opioid requirement. In an episode of obstruction during the described admission, the patient remained obstructed after more than 10 days of medical management. The patient suffered from intense abdominal distention and pain, necessitating hundreds of oral morphine equivalents daily. A ropivacaine thoracic epidural infusion was initiated, allowing decreased opioid use and relief of opioid-induced ileus contributing to his bowel obstruction. He subsequently had multiple formed bowel movements, which quickly decreased the patient's abdominal distention and immediate risk of perforation. This case explores epidurals as an underutilised approach to pain management in metastatic gastric malignancy and inoperable malignant bowel obstructions.

Keywords: Gastric cancer; Gastrointestinal system; Pain; Palliative procedures; Small intestine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Ileus*
  • Intestinal Obstruction* / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction* / surgery
  • Male
  • Pain Management
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / complications


  • Analgesics, Opioid