Opioid-induced hyperalgesia in patients after surgery: a systematic review and a meta-analysis

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Abstract

Background.

Opioids can increase sensitivity to noxious stimuli and cause opioid-induced hyperalgesia. We performed a systematic review to evaluate the clinical consequences of intra-operative doses of opioid.

Methods.

We identified randomized controlled trials which compared intra-operative opioid to lower doses or placebo in adult patients undergoing surgery from MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILAC, Cochrane, and hand searches of trial registries. We pooled data of postoperative pain intensity, morphine consumption, incidence of opioid-related side-effects, primary and secondary hyperalgesia. For dichotomous outcomes relative risks [95% confidence intervals (CIs)] and for continuous outcomes mean differences (MDs) or standardized mean difference (SMD; 95% CI) were calculated.

Results.

Twenty-seven studies involving 1494 patients were included in the analysis. Patients treated with high intra-operative doses of opioid reported higher postoperative pain intensity than the reference groups (MD: 9.4 cm; 95% CI: 4.4, 14.5) at 1 h, (MD: 7.1 cm; 95% CI: 2.8, 11.3) at 4 h, and (MD: 3 cm; 95% CI: 0.4, 5.6) at 24 h on a 100 cm visual analogue scale. They also showed higher postoperative morphine use after 24 h (SMD: 0.7; 95% CI: 0.37, 1.02). There was no difference in the incidences of nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. These results were mainly associated with the use of remifentanil. The impact of other opioids is less clear because of limited data.

Discussion.

This review suggests that high intra-operative doses of remifentanil are associated with small but significant increases in acute pain after surgery.

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