Since repeated noxious stimuli may sensitize neuropathic pain receptors of the spinal cord, we tested the hypothesis that the appropriate blockade of surgical stimuli with epidural anesthesia during upper abdominal surgery would be beneficial for postoperative analgesia. Thirty-six adult patients undergoing either elective gastrectomy or open cholecystectomy were randomly allocated to receive either inhalational general anesthesia alone (group G) or epidural anesthesia along with light general anesthesia (group E) throughout the surgery. Postoperative pain management consisted of patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) with bupivacaine accompanied by the continuous infusion of buprenorphine. To assess postoperative pain, a visual analogue scale (VAS) was employed at 2, 24, and 48 h postoperatively. While there was no significant difference in the bupivacaine dose, more patients undergoing gastrectomy in group G required supplemental analgesics than those in group E, and the VAS scores in group E demonstrated significantly better postoperative analgesia compared to group G after both types of surgery. Thus, an appropriate epidural blockade during upper abdominal surgery likely provides better postoperative pain relief.
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