IMPORTANCE: The use of epidural analgesia in laparoscopic colorectal surgery has demonstrated superiority over conventional analgesia in controlling pain. Controversy exists, however, regarding its cost-effectiveness and its effect on postoperative outcomes. OBJECTIVES: To examine the use of epidural analgesia in laparoscopic colorectal surgery at the national level and to compare its outcomes with those of conventional analgesia. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This is a retrospective review of laparoscopic colorectal cases performed with or without epidural analgesia for cancer, diverticular disease, and benign polyps. Patient demographic characteristics, disease and procedure types, and hospital settings were listed for patients in the epidural and conventional analgesia groups. A 1 to 4 case-matched analysis was performed, matching for patient demographic characteristics, hospital setting, indications, and procedure type. Data were obtained from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2010. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Total hospital charge, length of stay, mortality, pneumonia, respiratory failure, urinary tract infection, urinary retention, anastomotic leak, and postoperative ileus. RESULTS: A total of 191 576 laparoscopic colorectal cases were identified during the study period. Epidural analgesia was used in 4102 cases (2.14%). Epidurals were more likely to be used in large teaching hospitals, cancer cases, and rectal operations. On case-matched analysis, epidural analgesia was associated with a longer hospital stay by 0.60 day (P = .003), higher hospital charges by $3732.71 (P = .02), and higher rate of urinary tract infection (odds ratio = 1.81; P = .05). Epidural analgesia did not affect the incidence of respiratory failure, pneumonia, anastomotic leak, ileus, or urinary retention. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The perioperative use of epidural analgesia in laparoscopic colorectal surgery is limited in the United States. While epidural analgesia appears to be safe, it comes with higher hospital charges, longer hospital stay, and a higher incidence of urinary tract infections.
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