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The authors performed a meta-analysis and found that epidural analgesia overall provided superior postoperative analgesia compared with intravenous patient-controlled analgesia. For all types of surgery and pain assessments, all forms of epidural analgesia (both continuous epidural infusion and patient-controlled epidural analgesia) provided significantly superior postoperative analgesia compared with intravenous patient-controlled analgesia, with the exception of hydrophilic opioid-only epidural regimens. Continuous epidural infusion provided statistically significantly superior analgesia versus patient-controlled epidural analgesia for overall pain, pain at rest, and pain with activity; however, patients receiving continuous epidural infusion had a significantly higher incidence of nausea-vomiting and motor block but lower incidence of pruritus. In summary, almost without exception, epidural analgesia, regardless of analgesic agent, epidural regimen, and type and time of pain assessment, provided superior postoperative analgesia compared to intravenous patient-controlled analgesia.

(C) 2005 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.