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Epinephrine Decreases Postoperative Requirements for Continuous Thoracic Epidural Fentanyl Infusions

Baron, Cynthia M. MD, FRCPC; Kowalski, Stephen E. MD, FRCPC; Greengrass, Roy MD, FRCPC; Horan, Thomas A. MD, FRCSC; Unruh, Helmut W. MD, FRCSC; Baron, Christopher L. BSc

Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management

Epidural thoracic fentanyl infusions provide effective preoperative analgesia after thoracotomy; however, side effects can limit the effectiveness of this technique.This study evaluates epinephrine as an adjunct to continuous thoracic epidural fentanyl infusions after thoracotomy. Thirty-eight patients were studied in a prospective, randomized, double-blind trial comparing fentanyl alone to fentanyl with epinephrine 1:300,000. Epidural infusion rates were titrated to equivalent pain relief using a visual analog scale. With the addition of epinephrine, there was a significant reduction in fentanyl requirements (0.82 +/- 0.07 vs 1.19 +/- 0.11 micro gram centered dot kg-1 centered dot h-1, P = 0.005, repeated-measures analysis of variance) and in plasma fentanyl concentrations (steady state: 0.91 +/- 0.13 vs 1.65 +/- 0.23 ng/mL, P = 0.007, repeated-measures analysis of variance). There were no differences in pain scores, side effects, spirometry, patient satisfaction scores, or hemodynamic variables. This study demonstrates that adding epinephrine 1:300,000 to continuous thoracic epidural infusions decreases fentanyl requirements titrated for effective analgesia. The reduction in fentanyl requirements was associated with reduced fentanyl plasma concentrations.

(Anesth Analg 1996;82:760-5)

Department of Anesthesia and Surgery, Health Science Centre, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Accepted for publication December 11, 1995.

Address correspondence to Stephen E. Kowalski, MD, FRCPC, Department of Anesthesia, University of Manitoba, LB315-60 Pearl St., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3E 1X2.

© 1996 International Anesthesia Research Society