Epidural clonidine used as the sole analgesic agent during and after abdominal surgery. A dose-response study

Anesthesiology. 1997 Feb;86(2):285-92. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199702000-00003.


Background: Many studies have shown the beneficial effect of epidural clonidine in postoperative pain management. In these studies, the patients received local anesthetics, opioids, or both in combination with clonidine. Due to the interactive potentiation of those drugs, the importance of the intrinsic analgesic properties of the alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonist is difficult to establish. The authors investigated the analgesic potency of epidural clonidine when used as the sole analgesic agent during and after major abdominal surgery.

Methods: Fifty young adult patients undergoing intestinal surgery under general anesthesia with propofol were studied. At induction, the patients received epidurally either an initial dose of 2 micrograms/kg clonidine followed by an infusion of 0.5 microgram.kg-1.h-1 (group 1, n = 10) or 4 micrograms/kg followed by 1 microgram.kg-1.h-1 (group 2, n = 20) or 8 micrograms.kg-1.h-1 followed by an infusion of 2 micrograms.kg-1.h-1 (group 3, n = 20). During the operation, increases in arterial blood pressure or heart rate that did not respond to a propofol bolus (0.5 mg/kg) were treated with a bolus of intravenous lidocaine (1 mg/kg). Three successive injections were allowed. When baseline values were not restored, opioids were added and the patient was removed from the study. After operation, the clonidine infusions were maintained for 12 h. During this period and at every 30 min, sedation scores and visual analog scale values at rest and at cough were noted. In case of subjective scores up to 5 cm at rest or up to 8 cm at cough, the patients were given access to a patient-controlled analgesia device that delivered epidural bupivacaine. The end point of the study was reached once the patient activated the analgesic delivery button.

Results: During surgery, 60% of patients in group 1 compared with 33% of patients in group 2 and only 5% of patients in group 3 were removed from the study protocol because of inadequate anesthesia (P < 0.05). After operation, epidural clonidine provided complete analgesia lasting 30 +/- 21 min in group 1 compared with 251 +/- 237 min in group 2 or 369 +/- 256 min in group 3 (P < 0.05 for group 1 vs. groups 2 and 3 and group 2 vs. group 3).

Conclusions: Epidural clonidine used as the sole analgesic agent provided dose-dependent control of the hemodynamic changes associated with surgical stimulation. It also produced dose-dependent postoperative analgesia without major side effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Epidural*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage*
  • Clonidine / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestines / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Clonidine