SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – In colorectal surgery, transversus abdominis plane (TAP) block was associated with shorter hospital stays than epidural, according to a study that was conducted in patients undergoing both open and laparoscopic surgeries. TAP fared well in both groups.
There were higher rates of nausea/vomiting in the TAP group, suggesting the need for preoperative management in patients preparing to undergo TAP block. Urine retention was higher in the epidural group.
Physicians used liposomal bupivacaine, which is more costly than alternatives, and that fact met some resistance in the audience when the study was presented at the annual meeting of the Western Surgical Association. But patients receiving TAP had a 0.5-day shorter length of stay, which should reduce costs overall, and the drug component cost of TAP was less than $100 more than for the epidural.
“The biggest conclusion we drew from this study was that in patients where you would always consider an epidural historically, like an open procedure or a laparoscopic procedure where the conversion risk to open was higher, [favoring epidural] is now being called into question. We really believe that TAP block affords the length of stay benefit with no change in the pain control regimen after surgery,” Shawn Obi, DO, chief of surgery at Henry Ford Allegiance Health, Jackson, Mich., said in an interview.
The findings dovetail with an overall trend of improved protocols in colon surgery. “I think we’re working toward colorectal surgery as an outpatient operation, similar to what has happened in the joint arena,” said Dr. Obi.
His colleague, Matt Torgeson, DO, who is a surgical resident at Henry Ford Allegiance Health, noted that the hospital stay following colorectal surgery was once 6-8 days, and it has been shortened to 3-3.5 days. Enhanced recovery protocols made the biggest impact, shaving about 3 days. “Now we’re going to be seeing small, incremental changes,” said Dr. Torgeson.
The researchers randomized patients undergoing open or laparoscopic colorectal surgery to receive either an epidural (n = 37) or TAP block (n = 41). All patients entered an enhanced recovery pathway following surgery, with standardized discharge criteria. The two groups had similar times to return to normal bowel function (TAP, 1.7 days; epidural, 1.9 days) but the length of hospital stay was lower in the TAP group (2.8 days vs. 3.3 days; P = .023; 74.9 hours vs. 86.3 hours; P = .045). Subjects in the epidural group had a higher frequency of urinary retention (29.7% vs. 14.6%), though this did not reach statistical significance (P = .11). Postoperative nausea occurred at a higher rate in the TAP group (31.7% vs. 13.5%; odds ratio, 2.97), though this result just missed significance (P = .06).
In patients who had open surgery or laparoscopic surgery that converted to open, the length of stay was 2.9 days in the TAP group (n = 9) and 4.4 days in the epidural group (n = 5). Those numbers are small, but they suggest that TAP is effective even in open surgery. The cost of TAP was about $80 more than epidural medication ($406.16 vs. $322.73).
The study received no outside funding. Dr. Torgeson and Dr. Obi reported having no financial disclosures.