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Ultrasound-Guided Serratus Anterior Plane Block Versus Thoracic Epidural Analgesia for Thoracotomy Pain.

OBJECTIVE: Thoracotomy is one of the most painful surgical procedures. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of ultrasound-guided serratus anterior plane block (SAPB) compared with thoracic epidural analgesia (TEA) for controlling acute thoracotomy pain.

DESIGN: A prospective, randomized, observer-blinded, controlled study.

SETTING: The study was performed as a single-institution study in the National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Egypt.

PARTICIPANTS: All participants were cancer patients scheduled for thoracotomy.

INTERVENTIONS: This study was conducted from February to December 2015. Forty patients scheduled for thoracotomy under general anesthesia were allocated randomly into 1 of 2 groups with 20 patients each. SAPB was performed before extubation with an injection of 30 mL of 0.25% levobupivacaine followed by 5 mL/hour of 0.125% levobupivacaine. In the TEA group, thoracic epidural catheters were inserted preoperatively to be activated before extubation using a lower dose regimen to the SAPB group. Heart rate, mean arterial pressure, and the visual analog pain score (VAS) measurements were recorded for 24 hours. Rescue analgesia using intravenous morphine, 0.1 mL/kg, was administered if the VAS was >3.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Compared with preoperative values, the mean arterial pressure in the SAPB group did not change significantly (p = 0.181), whereas it decreased significantly (p = 0.006) in the TEA group. VAS scores and the total dose of morphine consumed were comparable in the 2 groups.

CONCLUSIONS: SAPB appeared to be a safe and effective alternative for postoperative analgesia after thoracotomy.

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