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This prospective study aimed to compare the efficacy of epidural (EDA) versus intravenous (PCA) application of analgesics after lumbar fusion. Fifty-two patients scheduled for elective posterior instrumented lumbar fusion were randomized into two groups. EDA patients received an epidural catheter intraoperatively, and administration of ropivacain and sulfentanil was started after a normal post-operative wake-up test in the recovery room area. PCA patients received intravenous opioids in the post-operative period. Differences between EDA and PCA groups in terms of patient satisfaction with respect to pain relief were not significant. Nevertheless, EDA patients reported less pain on the third day after surgery. There were significantly more side effects in the EDA group, including complete reversible loss of sensory function and motor weakness. There were no major side effects, such as infection or persisting neurological deficits, in either group. The routine use of epidural anesthesia for lumbar spine surgery has too many risks and offers very little advantage over PCA.
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