Introduction: Perioperative anesthesia and analgesia exacerbate immunosuppression in immunocompromised cancer patients. The natural killer (NK) cell is a critical part of anti-tumor immunity. We compared the effects of two different anesthesia and analgesia methods on the NK cell cytotoxicity (NKCC) in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery. Methods: Fifty patients undergoing breast cancer resection were randomly assigned to receive propofol-remifentanil anesthesia with postoperative ketorolac analgesia (Propofol-ketorolac groups) or sevoflurane-remifentanil anesthesia with postoperative fentanyl analgesia (Sevoflurane-fentanyl group). The primary outcome was NKCC, which was measured before and 24 h after surgery. Post-surgical pain scores and inflammatory responses measured by white blood cell, neutrophil, and lymphocyte counts were assessed. Cancer recurrence or metastasis was evaluated with ultrasound and whole body bone scan every 6 months for 2 years after surgery. Results: The baseline NKCC (%) was comparable between the two groups (P = 0.082). Compared with the baseline value, NKCC (%) increased in the Propofol-ketorolac group [15.2 (3.2) to 20.1 (3.5), P = 0.048], whereas it decreased in the Sevoflurane-fentanyl group [19.5 (2.8) to 16.4 (1.9), P = 0.032]. The change of NKCC over time was significantly different between the groups (P = 0.048). Pain scores during 48 h after surgery and post-surgical inflammatory responses were comparable between the groups. One patient in the Sevoflurane-fentanyl group had recurrence in the contralateral breast and no metastasis was found in either group. Conclusions: Propofol anesthesia with postoperative ketorolac analgesia demonstrated a favorable impact on immune function by preserving NKCC compared with sevoflurane anesthesia and postoperative fentanyl analgesia in patients undergoing breast cancer surgery.
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