To the Editor:—
The randomized clinical trial by Norris et al . 1comparing the outcome of alternate combinations of intraoperative anesthesia and postoperative analgesia doesn't support previous evidence 2,3,4and meta-anlysis 5that documented lower mortality, morbidity, less pain, and better outcomes of combined or pure regional anesthesia techniques with postoperative local anesthetic infusions.
It might hence be widely quoted as the crown witness of regional inefficacy; in our opinion inappropriately so, because inadequate doses, regimen, and concentrations of local anesthetics were used. Indeed, the authors concede this inadequacy. Short of blocking the activation of the hippocampus-pituitary axis and the sympathetic stimulation associated with surgical trauma and insufficient to treat and respond to postoperative pain, we cannot expect an outcome benefit from the addition of a regional technique.
However, with adequate intraoperative concentrations of local anesthetics, we find a third percent of bupivicaine necessary to achieve surgical blockade, the authors might have encountered (and feared) challenging episodes of hypotension secondary to low systemic vascular resistance and attenuation of the thoracic cardiac accelerators during periods of decreased preload from blood loss, third spacing, and vasodilation. Intraoperative use of epidural anesthesia to achieve surgical blockade may therefor not convey the desired outcome benefits for this particular surgical procedure.
When used for postoperative pain control for aortic aneurysm repair however, epidurals will yield outcome benefits, 6provided that (1) adequate concentrations are used (we recommend the equivalent of an eighth percent of bupivicaine or more), (2) the infusions rates areadjusted swiftly, with boluses where needed, to respond to interpatient variability and changing antinociceptive needs.
We suggest furthermore that a convincing study should document effective treatment, in this case regional anesthesia intraoperatively, either by achieving adequate surgical blockade before induction or afterwards by, for example, pupillometry. 7In summary, while the work by Norris et al . 8was flawless in many ways, 9we feel it lacks validity due to shortcomings of the (regional anesthesia) protocol in several arms of the study.