Significant reduction of postoperative pain and opioid analgesics requirement with an Enhanced Recovery After Thoracic Surgery protocol

Syed S Razi, Joy A Stephens-McDonnough, Safi Haq, Michael Fabbro, Aliercy Nunez Sanchez, Richard H Epstein, Nestor R Villamizar, Dao M Nguyen
Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2021, 161 (5): 1689-1701

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate differences in postoperative pain control and opioids requirement in thoracic surgical patients following implementation of an Enhanced Recovery after Thoracic Surgery protocol with a comprehensive postoperative pain management strategy.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A retrospective analysis of a prospectively maintained database of patients undergoing pulmonary resections by robotic thoracoscopy or thoracotomy from January 1, 2017, to January 31, 2019, was conducted. Multimodal pain management strategy (opioid-sparing analgesics, infiltration of liposomal bupivacaine to intercostal spaces and surgical sites, and elimination of thoracic epidural analgesia use in thoracotomy patients) was implemented as part of Enhanced Recovery after Thoracic Surgery on February 1, 2018. Outcome metrics including patient-reported pain levels, in-hospital and postdischarge opioids use, postoperative complications, and length of stay were compared before and after protocol implementation.

RESULTS: In total, 310 robotic thoracoscopy and 62 thoracotomy patients met the inclusion criteria. This pain management strategy was associated with significant reduction of postoperative pain in both groups with an overall reduction of postoperative opioids requirement. Median in-hospital opioids use (morphine milligram equivalent per day) was reduced from 30 to 18.36 (P = .009) for the robotic thoracoscopy group and slightly increased from 15.48 to 21.0 (P = .27) in the thoracotomy group. More importantly, median postdischarge opioids prescribed (total morphine milligram equivalent) was significantly reduced from 480.0 to 150.0 (P < .001) and 887.5 to 150.0 (P < .001) for the thoracoscopy and thoracotomy groups, respectively. Similar short-term perioperative outcomes were observed in both groups before and following protocol implementation.

CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of Enhanced Recovery after Thoracic Surgery allows safe elimination of epidural use, better pain control, and less postoperative opioids use, especially a drastic reduction of postdischarge opioid need, without adversely affecting outcomes.

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