, Volume 33, Issue 9, pp 1809-1814
Date: 15 Jul 2009

Combined Lumbar Spinal and Thoracic High-Epidural Regional Anesthesia as an Alternative to General Anesthesia for High-Risk Patients Undergoing Gastrointestinal and Colorectal Surgery

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A prospective study was undertaken to review the use of combined lumbar spinal and thoracic high-epidural regional anesthesia in high-risk patients who underwent gastrointestinal/colorectal surgery from 2004 to 2006.


Twelve high-risk patients underwent 13 gastrointestinal/colorectal surgical procedures, using a regional anesthetic technique, which consisted of a thoracic epidural and lumbar subarachnoid block. All patients were classified as high risk based on anesthetic assessment (American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score 3 or 4).


Six (46.2%) of the patients were men, and the overall median age was 86 years. Ten (76.9%) patients presented as emergencies, whereas only three (23.1%) patients underwent elective procedures. All patients subjectively rated their postoperative pain relief as effective. The 30-day mortality was 2 (15.4%); however, both of these patients refused initial treatment. Only one (7.7%) patient required delayed ITU admission for respiratory support (CPAP). None of the patients required intubation at any stage. There were two (15.4%) minor and two (15.4%) major early complications and only one (7.7%) delayed complication to date. Median length of stay was 7 days. Two (15.4%) patients had delayed discharge dates, for social reasons.


These patients demonstrated early postoperative recovery, with effective analgesia, no requirements for intubation, and lower morbidity and mortality rates than similar studies of high-risk patients who underwent procedures using general anesthesia. Using this technique, patients were managed appropriately in HDU and the surgical ward, without affecting their overall length of hospital stay.


This study supports the role of regional anesthetic techniques, combined with targeted, minimally invasive surgery—particularly for the management of high-risk patients presenting in the emergency setting.