The safety and efficacy of intrathecal opioid analgesia for acute postoperative pain: Seven years' experience with 5969 surgical patients at Indiana University Hospital

Kenneth H. Gwirtz, Jerry V. Young, Robert S. Byers, Christopher Alley, Katherine Levin, Scott G. Walker, Robert K. Stoelting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

151 Scopus citations


To assess the efficacy of the analgesic technique and the incidence of complications, we prospectively evaluated patients who received intrathecal opioid analgesia (ITOA) to manage postsurgical pain. Daily quality assurance data were collected on the first postoperative day and tabulated for 5969 adult patients who had received ITOA for major urologic, orthopedic, general/vascular, thoracic, and nonobstetrical gynecologic surgery. A scale of 1-10 was used to quantify each patient's satisfaction with analgesia. The incidence of side effects, complications, and naloxone usage was also recorded and tabulated. The mean satisfaction score using a 10-point numeric rating scale was 8.51, with a score of 1 connoting 'complete dissatisfaction' and 10 connoting 'complete satisfaction.' Side effects were minor and easily managed. Pruritus was the most common (37%). Respiratory depression was the least common (3%), easily detected by nursing observation, never life- threatening, and always responsive to treatment with naloxone. There were no deaths, nerve injuries, central nervous system infections, or naloxone- related complications. Postdural puncture headaches were rare (0.54%), as was the need for epidural blood patch (0.37%). Implications: Over a 7-yr period, intrathecal opioid analgesia was used to control acute postoperative pain on nearly 6000 patients, resulting in a high degree of patient satisfaction and a low incidence of side effects and complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-604
Number of pages6
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

Cite this