Background: Perioperative myocardial ischaemia is an important risk factor for cardiac morbidity and mortality after noncardiac surgery. The impact of analgesic management on the incidence and severity of cardiac ischemia was studied in 77 elderly patients undergoing surgical treatment of traumatic hip fracture.
Methods: After hospital admission and written consent, patients were randomised to conventional analgesic regimen (intramuscular oxycodone, OPI group) or continuous epidural infusion of bupivacaine/fentanyl (EPI group). The analgesic regimens were started preoperatively. Patients were operated under spinal anaesthesia and the treatments were continued three days postoperatively. ECG was continuously recorded. ST segment depression of ≥0.1 mV or elevation of ≥0.2 mV lasting ≥1 min were considered as ischaemic episodes. Nocturnal arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) was recorded perioperatively, and subjective pain was assessed every morning using a visual analogue scale (VAS).
Results: Fifty-nine (OPI 30, EPI 29) patients were evaluable for efficacy. Thirteen patients (43%) in the OPI and 12 patients (41%) in the EPI group had ischaemic episodes (NS). However, significantly more patients in the OPI group had ischaemic episodes during the surgery (8 vs. 0 in the EPI group, P=0.005). The median (quartal deviation) total ischaemic burden (i.e. integral of ST-change vs. time) in patients with ischaemic episodes was ten times larger in the OPI group (340  mm · min) compared with the EPI group (30  mm · min) (P=0.002). There were no significant differences between the groups in average heart rates or in heart rates at the start of ischaemic episodes or in maximal heart rates during the attacks. Average nocturnal SaO2 was similar in the two groups and there were no differences in the number of hypoxaemic (SaO2<90%) episodes. Preoperatively there were no differences in subjective pain, but postoperative and average perioperative VAS scores for pain were almost 40% lower in the EPI group (P=0.006). Perioperative myocardial infarctions were not detected.
Conclusions: Continuous epidural bupivacaine/fentanyl analgesic regimen, started preoperatively, reduces the amount of myocardial ischaemia in elderly patients with hip fracture.