Background: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have increased postoperative morbidity and mortality. Epidural analgesia (EDA) improves postoperative outcome but may worsen postoperative lung function. It is unknown whether patients with COPD benefit from EDA. The objective of this study was to determine whether patients with COPD undergoing major abdominal surgery benefit from EDA in addition to general anesthesia. Methods: This cohort study included 541 consecutive patients with COPD who underwent major abdominal surgery between 1995 and 2007 at a university medical center. Propensity scores estimating the probability of receiving EDA were used in multivariate correction. The primary outcome was postoperative pneumonia and 30-day mortality. Results: There were 324 patients (60%) who received EDA in addition to general anesthesia. The incidence of postoperative pneumonia (16% vs. 11%; P = 0.08) and 30-day mortality (9% vs. 5%; P = 0.03) was lower in patients who received EDA. After correction EDA was associated with improved outcome for postoperative pneumonia (OR 0.5; 95% CI: 0.3-0.9; P = 0.03). The strongest preventive effect was seen in patients with the most severe type of COPD. Conclusion: This study provides evidence that in patients with COPD who are scheduled for major abdominal surgery, epidural analgesia decreases postoperative pulmonary complications. Copyright,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Lier, F., van der Geest, P., Hoeks, S., van Gestel, Y., Hol, J. W., Sin, D. D., … Poldermans, D. (2011). Epidural analgesia is associated with improved health outcomes of surgical patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Anesthesiology, 115(2), 315–321. doi:10.1097/ALN.0b013e318224cc5c