OBJECTIVES Gastric tube necrosis is a major cause of mortality after oesophagectomy. The construction of the gastric tube used for oesophageal reconstruction involves a division of several arteries leading to a reduction in the blood supply at the fundus, which is used for the oesophageal anastomosis. This study was undertaken to determine the effect of thoracic epidural anaesthesia and intravenous phenylephrine on haemodynamics and blood flow in the tubularized stomach.

METHODS Ten patients undergoing an oesophagectomy were prospectively studied. Pulmonary artery catheters were used to measure haemodynamic changes, and laser Doppler flow probes were used to measure gastric blood flow. The effects of an intraoperative thoracic epidural and subsequent intravenous phenylephrine infusion were documented.

RESULTS The administration of a thoracic epidural bolus of bupivacaine 0.25% at 0.1 ml kg resulted in a significant reduction in flux at the anastomotic end of the newly formed gastric tube from a median of 57–41 perfusion units (P = 0.003). A subsequent intravenous phenylephrine infusion titrated to restore mean arterial pressure significantly increased the flux at the anastomotic end from a median of 41–66 perfusion units (P = 0.009).

CONCLUSIONS An intravenous phenylephrine infusion can reverse the epidural bolus-induced reduction in blood flow at the anastomotic end of the newly formed gastric tube.