Effectiveness of premature epidural catheter termination as a quality indicator in a developing country

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Background And Objective: Premature epidural catheter termination in the postoperative period is a common cause of epidural analgesia failure. The incidence varies from 5.7 to 13%. A higher incidence of unplanned epidural catheter termination was observed in our hospital. We took this as a quality improvement project, monitored the causes and applied remedial measures at the same time to reduce the incidence. Method: An audit was conducted by the Acute Pain Service between January 2004 and December 2007 to find the incidence and different causes of accidental epidural catheter pullout. Different strategies were applied simultaneously to counter the identified causes. A predesigned pro forma was used for audit while remedial measures included change in practice, counselling of the person responsible, group teaching and reinforcement of epidural care policy. Results: The overall incidence of premature epidural termination was 3.9% during a 4-year period with a higher incidence in 2004 (5.59%), which was reduced in later years. The main reason for premature epidural catheter removal was mishandling of the catheter and filter (64%). The most common site for catheter disconnection was found to be at the filter end of the catheter (54.7%), although 39 (61%) epidural catheters were removed by the Acute Pain Service following disconnection or breakage to avoid danger of infection. Conclusion: Identification of premature epidural catheter termination as a quality indicator and continuous quality improvement efforts later on proved to be a useful approach in reducing the incidence. The present audit also helped to quantify the improvement in the quality of care.


European Journal of Anaesthesiology