Although the nitrogen-sparing properties of epidural block and i.v. glucose on the days after surgical trauma have been well established, their metabolic effects during the acute phase of the stress response remain unclear. Therefore, in this study we investigated the effect of epidural block on glucose and protein kinetics during and immediately after surgery in patients receiving i.v. glucose at 2 mg x kg(-1) x min(-1). Sixteen patients undergoing colorectal surgery received either general anesthesia with epidural block with bupivacaine (EDA; n = 8) or general anesthesia alone (control; n = 8). Glucose and protein kinetics were determined during and 2 h after the operation by stable isotope tracers [6,6-(2)H(2)]glucose and L-[1-(13)C]leucine. Plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, cortisol, and glucagon were also determined. Epidural block attenuated the perioperative increase in plasma glucose concentration (P < 0.05). The rate of appearance of glucose (R(a) glucose) and endogenous glucose production (EGP) were slower in the EDA group than in control subjects during (R(a) glucose, EDA 13.2 +/- 1.0 versus control 15.3 +/- 1.8 micromol x kg(-1) x min(-1); P < 0.05; EGP, EDA 1.2 +/- 1.2 versus control 3.8 +/- 1.7 micromol x kg(-1) x min(-1); P < 0.05) and after the operation (P > 0.05). Whereas protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation decreased in both groups (P < 0.05), whole-body protein synthesis remained unchanged. Insulin levels increased with both anesthetic techniques (P < 0.05). Intraoperative plasma concentrations of cortisol and glucagon were smaller in the EDA group (P < 0.05). The intraoperative suppression of EGP by exogenous glucose was more pronounced in the presence of epidural block. However, epidural block failed to exert a protein-sparing effect during the acute phase of the stress response in patients receiving i.v. glucose.
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