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Sandler A. N.
Toronto Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Post-thoracotomy pain is the most severe form of pain after surgery and is continuously exacerbated by ventilatory function. Due to the multiplicity of nociceptive inputs from the chest wall, thoracic viscera, diaphragm and postoperative chest tubes, postoperative pain may be difficult to control with single modalitites. The aim is excellent analgesia with function i.e. normal ventilation and rapid mobilisation. A variety of agents and techniques have been shown to be effective analgesics with varying degrees of functional success. These include systemic opioids, NSAIDS and ketamine, regional analgesia (including epidural, spinal, paravetebral, intercostal and intrapleural techniques) and cryoanalgesia. The most popular and probably most effective technique at the present time is thoracic epidural analgesia using a combination of different local anesthetic agents and opioids. There are few data indicating any influence on outcome of different postthoracotomy analgesic techniques. Improvement in outcome requires a co-ordinated approach from all caregivers using the best possible analgesic techniques.