Salivary cortisol levels and anxiety in melanoma patients undergoing sentinel lymph node excision under local anesthesia versus general anesthesia : a prospective study

Jansen, Philipp GND; Stoffels, Ingo GND; Müseler, Anne-Christine GND; Petri, Maximilian ORCID; Brinker, Titus J. GND; Schedlowski, Manfred GND; Schadendorf, Dirk GND; Engler, Harald GND; Klode, Joachim GND

Sentinel lymph node excision (SLNE) can be performed in tumescent local anesthesia (TLA) or general anesthesia (GA). Perioperative cortisol level changes and anxiety are common in surgical interventions and might be influenced by the type of anesthesia. In this study, we intended to determine whether the type of anesthesia impacts the patients’ perioperative levels of salivary cortisol (primary outcome) and the feeling of anxiety evaluated by psychological questionnaires (secondary outcome).

All melanoma patients of age undergoing SLNE at the University Hospital Essen, Germany, could be included in the study. Exclusion criteria were patients’ intake of glucocorticoids or psychotropic medication during the former 6 months, pregnancy, age under 18 years, and BMI ≥ 30 as salivary cortisol levels were reported to be significantly impacted by obesity and might confound results.

In total, 111 melanoma patients undergoing SLNE were included in our prospective study between May 2011 and April 2017 and could choose between TLA or GA. Salivary cortisol levels were measured three times intraoperatively, twice on the third and second preoperative day and twice on the second postoperative day. To assess anxiety, patients completed questionnaires (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)) perioperatively. Patients of both groups exhibited comparable baseline levels of cortisol and perioperative anxiety levels. Independent of the type of anesthesia, all patients showed significantly increasing salivary cortisol level from baseline to 30 min before surgery (T3) (TLA: t = 5.07, p < 0.001; GA: t = 3.09, p = 0.006). Post hoc independent t tests showed that the TLA group exhibited significantly higher cortisol concentrations at the beginning of surgery (T4; t = 3.29, p = 0.002) as well as 20 min after incision (T5; t = 277, p = 0.008) compared to the GA group.

The type of anesthesia chosen for SLNE surgery significantly affects intraoperative cortisol levels in melanoma patients. Further studies are mandatory to evaluate the relevance of endogenous perioperative cortisol levels on the postoperative clinical course.


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Jansen, P., Stoffels, I., Müseler, A.-C., Petri, M., Brinker, T.J., Schedlowski, M., Schadendorf, D., Engler, H., Klode, J., 2020. Salivary cortisol levels and anxiety in melanoma patients undergoing sentinel lymph node excision under local anesthesia versus general anesthesia: a prospective study.
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