Regional anesthesia and analgesia reduce the stress response to surgery and decrease the need for volatile anesthesia and opioids, thereby preserving cancer-specific immune defenses. This study therefore tested the primary hypothesis that combining epidural anesthesia–analgesia with general anesthesia improves recurrence-free survival after lung cancer surgery.
Adults scheduled for video-assisted thoracoscopic lung cancer resections were randomized 1:1 to general anesthesia and intravenous opioid analgesia or combined epidural–general anesthesia and epidural analgesia. The primary outcome was recurrence-free survival (time from surgery to the earliest date of recurrence/metastasis or all-cause death). Secondary outcomes included overall survival (time from surgery to all-cause death) and cancer-specific survival (time from surgery to cancer-specific death). Long-term outcome assessors were blinded to treatment.
Between May 2015 and November 2017, 400 patients were enrolled and randomized to general anesthesia alone (n = 200) or combined epidural–general anesthesia (n = 200). All were included in the analysis. The median follow-up duration was 32 months (interquartile range, 24 to 48). Recurrence-free survival was similar in each group, with 54 events (27%) with general anesthesia alone versus 48 events (24%) with combined epidural–general anesthesia (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.60 to 1.35; P = 0.608). Overall survival was also similar with 25 events (13%) versus 31 (16%; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.12; 95% CI, 0.64 to 1.96; P = 0.697). There was also no significant difference in cancer-specific survival with 24 events (12%) versus 29 (15%; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.61 to 1.91; P = 0.802). Patients assigned to combined epidural–general had more intraoperative hypotension: 94 patients (47%) versus 121 (61%; relative risk, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.55; P = 0.007).
Epidural anesthesia–analgesia for major lung cancer surgery did not improve recurrence-free, overall, or cancer-specific survival compared with general anesthesia alone, although the CI included both substantial benefit and harm.
Regional anesthesia and analgesia reduces the stress of surgery and decreases the need for volatile anesthesia and opioids.
Observational studies have reported mixed results with regard to the beneficial effects of regional anesthesia for cancer surgery. Recent trials have failed to demonstrate a benefit.
In a randomized trial of adults scheduled for video-assisted thoracoscopic lung cancer resection comparing combined epidural–general to general anesthesia, there was no difference between groups in recurrence-free survival time.
There was also no difference in overall survival.