Regional anesthesia and analgesia reduce the stress response to surgery and decrease the need for volatile anesthesia and opioids, thereby preserving cancer-specific immune defenses. This study therefore tested the primary hypothesis that combining epidural anesthesia–analgesia with general anesthesia improves recurrence-free survival after lung cancer surgery.


Adults scheduled for video-assisted thoracoscopic lung cancer resections were randomized 1:1 to general anesthesia and intravenous opioid analgesia or combined epidural–general anesthesia and epidural analgesia. The primary outcome was recurrence-free survival (time from surgery to the earliest date of recurrence/metastasis or all-cause death). Secondary outcomes included overall survival (time from surgery to all-cause death) and cancer-specific survival (time from surgery to cancer-specific death). Long-term outcome assessors were blinded to treatment.


Between May 2015 and November 2017, 400 patients were enrolled and randomized to general anesthesia alone (n = 200) or combined epidural–general anesthesia (n = 200). All were included in the analysis. The median follow-up duration was 32 months (interquartile range, 24 to 48). Recurrence-free survival was similar in each group, with 54 events (27%) with general anesthesia alone versus 48 events (24%) with combined epidural–general anesthesia (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.60 to 1.35; P = 0.608). Overall survival was also similar with 25 events (13%) versus 31 (16%; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.12; 95% CI, 0.64 to 1.96; P = 0.697). There was also no significant difference in cancer-specific survival with 24 events (12%) versus 29 (15%; adjusted hazard ratio, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.61 to 1.91; P = 0.802). Patients assigned to combined epidural–general had more intraoperative hypotension: 94 patients (47%) versus 121 (61%; relative risk, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.55; P = 0.007).


Epidural anesthesia–analgesia for major lung cancer surgery did not improve recurrence-free, overall, or cancer-specific survival compared with general anesthesia alone, although the CI included both substantial benefit and harm.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Regional anesthesia and analgesia reduces the stress of surgery and decreases the need for volatile anesthesia and opioids.
  • Observational studies have reported mixed results with regard to the beneficial effects of regional anesthesia for cancer surgery. Recent trials have failed to demonstrate a benefit.
What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • In a randomized trial of adults scheduled for video-assisted thoracoscopic lung cancer resection comparing combined epidural–general to general anesthesia, there was no difference between groups in recurrence-free survival time.
  • There was also no difference in overall survival.