Background: Choice of perioperative analgesia may affect the rate of recovery of gastrointestinal function and thus duration and cost of hospitalization after colonic surgery.
Methods: Fifty-four patients undergoing partial colectomy surgery were randomized into four groups. All groups received a standardized general anesthetic. Group MB received a preoperative bolus of epidural bupivacaine and morphine followed by an infusion of morphine and bupivacaine. Group M received a preoperative bolus of epidural morphine followed by an infusion of morphine. Group B received a preoperative bolus of bupivacaine followed by an infusion of bupivacaine. Group P received a preoperative bolus of intravenous morphine followed by intravenous patient-controlled morphine postoperatively. All patients participated in a standardized recovery program to minimize the influence of nonanalgesic factors on recovery of gastrointestinal function. All epidural groups were double-blinded. All patients were deemed ready for discharge according to prospectively defined criteria.
Results: Groups B and MB reported superior analgesia with activity (P < 0.01). Group M had a greater incidence of pruritus (P < 0.05). Group B had a greater incidence of orthostatic hypotension (P = 0.04). Groups B and MB recovered gastrointestinal function and fulfilled discharge criteria approximately 1.5 days earlier than groups M and P (P < 0.005).
Conclusions: Epidural analgesia with bupivacaine and morphine provided the best balance of analgesia and side effects while accelerating postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function and time to fulfillment of discharge criteria after colon surgery in relatively healthy patients within the context of a multimodal recovery program.