Continuous intravenous analgesia with fentanyl or morphine after gynecological surgery: a cohort study
A prospective survey of one thousand and sixty-two patients receiving epidural analgesia in surgical wards was undertaken over a two-year period. The duration of infusion ranged from one to fourteen days, with a mode of three days. There were 1131 episodes where a local anaesthetic and opioid mixture was used and 160 where opioids were used alone. Local anaesthetic was not used without opioids. 23% of catheters were removed prematurely because of catheter related problems including accidental dislodgement (13%) and skin site inflammation (5.3%). No epidural abscess or haematoma was identified. In 14% of the total number of episodes there was either no demonstrable block or complications occurred requiring a change of solution: 30% of this group were salvaged following intervention by the Acute Pain Service (APS). The incidence of respiratory depression was 0.24%. There was no case of delayed respiratory depression. Epidural analgesia can be used safely in surgical wards provided that regular review of the patients is undertaken. It must be anticipated however, that up to 20% of patients will not receive adequate analgesia for the first 48 hours postoperatively. The failure rate could be halved if accidental dislodgement of epidural catheters could be eliminated.