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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are very effective for the management of acute postoperative pain. These agents can be used in combination with opioid analgesics and local anaesthetics for the relief of severe postoperative pain, when the combination results in reduced narcotic requirements and improved analgesia compared with opioids and/or local anaesthetics. NSAIDs have been shown to be effective in a wide variety of postoperative pain states, including thoracotomy, major orthopaedic surgery such as hip arthroplasty, upper and lower abdominal surgery and minor outpatient surgery. The benefits of combining NSAIDs with opioid analgesics in the immediate postoperative period include not only improved analgesia but also the benefits associated with narcotic sparing (improved respiratory function, reduction in nausea and vomiting, reduced sedation) and there is a suggestion that NSAIDs may improve not only the quality but also the speed of recovery. By adding the NSAIDs to a routine analgesic armamentarium the goal of preventing or eliminating postoperative pain, rather than treating or reducing postoperative pain, is achieved. To use these agents more effectively, further research is required to distinguish the differences between the various NSAIDs, the optimal dosage schedules and route of administration, and, finally, the cost-effectiveness and impact on the quality and speed of postoperative recovery of NSAIDs.