Background: Sympathetically-associated hypertension after coarctation repair is a common problem often requiring anti-hypertensive infusions in an intensive care unit. Epidurals suppress sympathetic output and can reduce blood pressure but have not been studied following coarctation repair in children. We sought to determine whether epidurals for coarctation repair in children were associated with decreased requirement for postoperative anti-hypertensive infusions, if they were associated with changes in hospital course, or with complications. Methods: In this observational retrospective cohort study, we evaluated all patients age 1–18 years undergoing coarctation repair at our institution during a 10-year period and compared the requirement for postoperative anti-hypertensive infusions in patients with and without epidurals using an anti-hypertensive dosing index (ADI) incorporating total dose-hours of all anti-hypertensive infusions (primary outcome). We also assessed intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital length of stay, discharge on oral anti-hypertensive medication, and complications potentially related to epidurals (secondary outcomes). Results: Children undergoing coarctation repair with epidurals had decreased requirements for postoperative anti-hypertensive infusions compared to children without epidurals (cumulative ADI 65.0 [28.5–130.3] v. 157.0 [68.6–214.7], p
= 0.021; mean ADI 49.0 [33.3–131.2] v. 163.0 [66.6–209.8], p
= 0.01). After multivariable cumulative logit mixed-effects regression analysis, mean ADI was decreased in patients with epidurals throughout the postoperative period (p
< 0.001). Patients with epidurals were 1.6 years older and weighed 10.6 kg more than patients without epidurals but were otherwise comparable. Epidural complications included pruritus (three patients), agitation (one patient), somnolence (one patient), and transient orthostatic hypotension (one patient). Duration of intensive care unit admission, duration of hospital stays, and requirement for anti-hypertensive medication at discharge were similar in patients with and without epidurals. Conclusions: This is the first study of children receiving an epidural for surgical repair of aortic coarctation via open thoracotomy. In this small, single-institution, observational retrospective cohort study, epidurals for coarctation repair in children were associated with decreased postoperative anti-hypertensive infusion requirements. Epidurals were not associated with length of ICU or hospital stay, or with discharge on anti-hypertensive medication. No significant epidural complications were noted. Prospective study of larger populations will be necessary to confirm these associations, address causality, verify safety, and assess other effects.
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