Background: High-dose single-shot caudal morphine has been postulated to facilitate early extubation and to lower initial analgesic requirements after staged single-ventricle (SV) palliation.
Methods: With Institutional Review Board approval and written informed parental consent, 64 SV children aged 75–1667 days were randomized to pre-incisional caudal morphine–bupivacaine (100 μg·kg−1 morphine (concentration 0.1%), mixed with 0.25% bupivacaine with 1 : 200 000 epinephrine, total 1 ml·kg−1) and postcardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) intravenous (IV) droperidol (75 μg·kg−1) (‘active caudal group’) or pre-incisional caudal saline (1 ml·kg−1) and post-CPB IV morphine (150 μg·kg−1) with droperidol (75 μg·kg−1) (‘active IV group’). Assignment remained concealed from families and the care teams throughout the trial. Early extubation failure rates (primary or reintubation within 24 h), time to first postoperative rescue morphine analgesia, and 12-h postoperative morphine requirements were assessed for extubated patients.
Results: Thirty-one (12 stage 2) SV patients received caudal morphine and 32 (15 stage 2) received IV morphine. Extubation failure rates were 6/31 (19%) for caudal and 5/32 (16%) for IV morphine. For successfully extubated patients (n = 54), active caudal treatment significantly delayed the need for postoperative rescue morphine in stage 3 patients (P = 0.02) but not in stage 2 patients (P = 0.189) (Kaplan–Meier survival analysis with LogRank test). The reduction in 12-h postoperative morphine requirements with active caudal treatment did not reach significance (P = 0.085) but morphine requirements were significantly higher for stage 2 compared with stage 3 patients (P < 0.001) (two-way anova in n = 50 extubated patients).
Conclusions: High-dose caudal morphine with bupivacaine delayed the need for rescue morphine analgesia in stage 3 patients. All stage 2 patients required early rescue morphine and had significantly higher postoperative 12-h morphine requirements than stage 3 patients. Early extubation is feasible for the majority of stage 2 and 3 SV patients regardless of analgesic regimen. The study was underpowered to assess differences in extubation failure rates.