The use of epidural analgesia (EA) has been suggested as an integral part of an enhanced recovery program for colorectal surgery. However, the effects of EA on postoperative outcomes and hospital length of stay remain controversial. Data from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database for 2014 and 2015 were queried for adult patients who underwent elective open colorectal surgery. We included only cases with general anesthesia as the main anesthetic. Cases with other types of anesthesia were excluded. A 1:3 matched sample of EA versus non-EA cases was created based on propensity scores. The primary outcome of interest was the occurrence of major cardiopulmonary complications within 7 days of the surgery. Secondary outcome measures were hospital length of stay and 30-day mortality. A total of 24,927 patients were included in the analysis. EA was utilized in 15.02% (n = 3745). The cumulative risk over the study period for major cardiopulmonary complications was 2.52% (n = 627). There were no statistically significant differences in the rate of postoperative complications (relative risk 0.91, 95% CI 0.66–1.27, P = 0.59), length of stay (median [interquartile range], EA 6 [5–9] versus non-EA 6 [4–9] days, P = 0.36), and 30-day mortality rate (relative risk 0.71, 95% CI 0.42–1.20, P = 0.20) between the two propensity-matched cohorts. In conclusion, our study revealed that the benefits of EA in patients undergoing open colorectal surgery are limited, as it does not influence immediate postoperative cardiopulmonary complications or hospital length of stay.
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