Postoperative ileus is a concern among surgical patients. Epidural anesthesia and analgesia with local anesthetics can decrease the duration of ileus. Significant systemic absorption of local anesthesia occurs during epidural use. In this study, we examined whether many of the beneficial effects on bowel function seen with epidural lidocaine are also present when the drug is given parenterally. Forty patients undergoing radical retropubic prostatectomy were studied with one half of the patients receiving a lidocaine bolus (1.5 mg/kg) and infusion (3 mg/min, unless weight <70 kg, then 2 mg/min); the other half received a saline infusion. A blind observer recorded the patient's daily pain score, the time the patient first experienced flatulence and had the first bowel movement, and the total use of analgesics. Lidocaine-treated patients first experienced flatulence in a significantly shorter time (P < 0.01) than control patients. Lidocaine patients' hospital stay was also significantly shorter (P < 0.05); on average, they spent 1.1 fewer days in the hospital. I.V. lidocaine initiated before anesthesia and continued 1 h postoperatively significantly sped up the return of bowel function. Lidocaine patients were also more comfortable postoperatively. Many of the bowel function benefits attributed to epidural lidocaine are also present when the drug is administered parenterally. Additionally, the length of hospital stay was reduced in lidocaine-treated patients.
Implications: This study prospectively examined whether I.V. lidocaine could affect the return of bowel function after radical prostate surgery. Lidocaine-treated patients had shorter hospital stays, less pain, and faster return of bowel function. In this population, lidocaine infusion can be a useful adjunct in anesthetic management.