Patient Care

Is choice of anesthesia during cancer surgery linked to outcome?


The anesthesia and analgesic technique used during cancer surgery is rarely on patients’ radar, but an emerging body of evidence suggests it may affect their chances of recurrence and metastasis. “There’s enough data to raise a concern, absolutely,” said Dr Hugh Hemmings, chair of anesthesiology at Cornell University, New York, and co-editor of a recent British Journal of Anaesthesia (BJA) special issue on anesthesia and cancer.1 Laboratory studies in the 1980s and 1990s that suggested a link between anesthesia and cancer outcomes went largely unnoticed until a 2006 retrospective cohort study showed a 40% reduction in recurrence during 2.5-4 years of follow-up in women who were given paravertebral anesthesia, a type of regional anesthesia, with general anesthesia rather than general anesthesia and postoperative morphine analgesia during primary breast cancer surgery.2

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