Management of pain in advanced disease

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Abstract

Background

Pain is common in advanced malignancy but also prevalent in other non-malignant life-limiting diseases such as advanced heart disease; end stage renal failure and multiple sclerosis. Patients with renal or liver impairment need specific consideration, as most analgesics rely on either or both for their metabolism and excretion.

Sources of data

Recent evidence-based guidelines and the systematic reviews that have informed their recommendations.

Areas of agreement

The principles of the WHO (World Health Organisation) analgesic ladder are commonly endorsed as a structured approach to the management of pain. For neuropathic pain, the efficacy of different agents is similar and choice of drug more guided by side effects, drug interactions and cost.

Areas of controversy

Evidence supporting the WHO analgesic ladder is disputed and alternatives suggested, but no overwhelming evidence for an alternative approach exists to date.

Growing points

Alternative approaches to the WHO analgesic ladder, new analgesic agents, e.g. rapid onset oral/intranasal fentanyl.

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