Epidural analgesia improves outcome in cardiac surgery: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Elena Bignami, Giovanni Landoni, Giuseppe G L Biondi-Zoccai, Filippo Boroli, Melissa Messina, Elisa Dedola, Leda Nobile, Luca Buratti, Imad Sheiban, Alberto Zangrillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: The authors conducted a review of randomized studies to determine whether there were any advantages for clinically relevant outcomes by adding epidural analgesia in patients undergoing cardiac surgery under general anesthesia. Design: Meta-analysis. Setting: Hospitals. Participants: A total of 2366 patients from 33 randomized trials. Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: Data sources and study selection: PubMed, BioMedCentral, CENTRAL, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and conference proceedings were searched (updated January 2008) for randomized trials that compared general anesthesia with an anesthetic plan including general anesthesia and epidural analgesia in cardiac surgery. Two independent reviewers appraised study quality, with divergences resolved by consensus. Overall analysis showed that epidural analgesia reduced the risk of the composite endpoint mortality and myocardial infarction (30/1125 [2.7%] in the epidural group v 64/1241 [5.2%] in the control arm, odds ratio [OR] = 0.61 [0.40-0.95], p = 0.03 number needed to treat [NNT] = 40), the risk of acute renal failure (35/590 [5.9%] in the epidural group v 54/618 [8.7%] in the control arm, OR = 0.56 [0.34-0.93], p = 0.02, NNT = 36), and the time of mechanical ventilation (weighted mean differences =-2.48 hours [-2.64,-2.32], p <0.001). Conclusions: This analysis suggested that epidural analgesia on top of general anesthesia reduced the incidence of perioperative acute renal failure, the time on mechanical ventilation, and the composite endpoint of mortality and myocardial infarction in patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-597
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010



  • anesthesia
  • cardiac anesthesia
  • cardiac surgery
  • epidural
  • mortality
  • myocardial infarction
  • peridural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

Cite this