BACKGROUND: The effects of an epidural opioid and a local anesthetic on the perioperative stress responses have not been fully investigated in elderly patients undergoing cancer surgery. We hypothesized that the stress response after a radical retropubic prostatectomy (RRP) would be attenuated by epidural ropivacaine and sufentanil.
METHODS: In this randomized, double-blinded study, we included patients above 65 years of age who were scheduled for a RRP. In addition to general anesthesia, they received either epidural saline continuously (5 ml/h) (C group, n=20); 0.3% ropivacaine (R group, n=20); or 0.3% ropivacaine combined with 1 μg/ml sufentanil (RS group; n=20). We determined the concentrations of glucose, insulin, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and prolactin before, during, and up to 48 h after surgery.
RESULTS: The concentrations of glucose and insulin increased in all the groups. The cortisol level increased in the C group while it decreased significantly in the RS group. Epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations increased significantly after surgery in the C group, but not in the R and RS groups. The prolactin concentration increased in all the groups, and was higher in the RS group than in the other groups (P=0.002). Post-operative pain scores and analgesic requirement were lower in the R and RS groups.
CONCLUSION: Epidural ropivacaine blunted the perioperative stress responses in elderly patients undergoing a RRP. The combination of epidural ropivacaine and sufentanil was associated with the most pronounced attenuation of the stress response. ClinicalTrial.gov registration number: NCT01086956.