BACKGROUND: Postoperative pain influences rehabilitation, postoperative complications and quality of life. Despite its impact, there are no uniform treatment guidelines. Different centers seem to use various strategies. This study aims to analyze pain management regimens used after anatomic VATS resections in Austrian thoracic surgery units, with a special interest in opioid usage and strategies to avoid opioids.
METHODS: A questionnaire was designed to assess the use of regional anesthesia, postoperative pain medication and characteristics of individual pain management regimens. The questionnaire was sent to all thoracic surgery units in Austria, with nine out of twelve departments returning them.
RESULTS: All departments use regional anesthesia during the procedure. Four out of nine centers use epidural analgesia or an intercostal catheter for postoperative regional anesthesia in at least 50% of patients. Two departments follow an opioid restrictive regimen, five depend on the visual analogue scale (VAS) and two administer opioids on a fixed schedule. Three out of nine departments use NSAIDs on a fixed schedule. The most used medication is metamizole (eight out of nine centers; six on a fixed schedule, two depending on VAS) followed by piritramide (six out of nine centers; none as a fixed prescription).
CONCLUSIONS: This study reflects the heterogeneity in postoperative pain treatment after VATS anatomic lung resections. All departments use some form of regional anesthesia in the perioperative period; prolonged regional anesthesia is not utilized uniformly to reduce opioid consumption, as suggested in enhanced recovery after surgery programs. More evidence is needed to optimize and standardize postoperative pain treatment.