Cost-effectiveness of analgesia after Caesarean section. A comparison of intrathecal morphine and epidural PCA

M Vercauteren, K Vereecken, M La Malfa, H Coppejans, H Adriaensen
Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 2002, 46 (1): 85-9

BACKGROUND: Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) techniques and intrathecal morphine are the most widely used treatments for post-Caesarean section pain. However these methods have not been compared with respect to analgesic quality and cost differences.

METHODS: Fifty-three patients scheduled for elective or semi-urgent Caesarean section were randomized to receive for postoperative analgesia either epidural PCA with a mixture containing bupivacaine 0.06% and sufentanil 1 microg x ml(-1) or intrathecal morphine 0.15 mg together with the spinal anaesthetic and to be supplemented with paracetamol and tramadol. Analgesic efficacy, side-effects and costs were calculated during 48 h.

RESULTS: VAS pain scores both at rest and during mobilization were lower in the PCA group, more particularly during the second postoperative day. Nausea and vomiting were more frequently registered in the morphine treated patients. PCA treated patients stayed longer in the recovery room but required fewer nurse interventions on the surgical ward. Manpower and drug costs were equal in both groups. The differences in total costs (Euro) amounted to euros 33 and were mainly caused by the more expensive equipment required for epidural PCA. Satisfaction and hospital discharge were similar for both treatments.

CONCLUSIONS: It was concluded that epidural PCA induced better pain relief, caused less nausea/vomiting but was more expensive than intrathecal morphine.

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