BACKGROUND: Associations between anesthetic management and cancer recurrence or long-time survival remain uncertain. In this study, we compared the effects of postoperative epidural morphine analgesia with that of postoperative IV fentanyl analgesia on cancer recurrence and long-term survival in patients undergoing resection of hepatocellular carcinoma.
METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was performed on patients with hepatocellular carcinoma receiving hepatic resection at this institution (n = 1846, 1997–2007). Recurrence-free survival and long-term survival were assessed using Kaplan-Meier survival estimates and compared using a multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression, adjusted with propensity scores.
RESULTS: Eight hundred nineteen patients met the inclusion criteria and were divided into 2 groups: patients receiving postoperative epidural analgesia with morphine (EA, n = 451) and patients receiving postoperative IV analgesia with fentanyl (IA, n = 368). The median time of follow-up for all patients was 4.2 years (2–9). The rates of recurrence of cancer (37.7% vs 30.7%, P = 0.036) and death (40.6% vs 30.4%, P = 0.003) were higher in the EA group versus IA group. Recurrence-free survival was similar in both the EA and IA groups (hazards ratio 2.224, 95% confidence interval, 0.207–23.893, P = 0.509). Using a multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression adjusted with propensity scores, independent risk factors for long-term survival in patients after resection of hepatocellular carcinoma were ASA physical status, tumor diameter, preoperative α-fetoprotein (+) as well as postoperative epidural analgesia with morphine.
CONCLUSION: Compared with postoperative IV analgesia with fentanyl, postoperative epidural analgesia with morphine was associated with increased cancer recurrence and death but had no significant effect on recurrence-free survival in patients undergoing resection of hepatocellular carcinoma.