A 2013 updated systematic review & meta-analysis of 36 randomized controlled trials; no apparent effects of non steroidal anti-inflammatory agents on the risk of bleeding after tonsillectomy

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Although the literature suggests that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in controlling post-operative pain in the paediatric population, physicians have been reluctant to utilise these medications after tonsillectomy due to concerns of increased bleeding rates. While many surgeons prescribe opioid analgesics postoperatively, these are associated with a number of potential adverse side-effects including nausea, vomiting, constipation, excessive sedation and respiratory compromise.

Objective of review

To compare bleeding rates and severity between recipients of NSAIDs versus placebo or opioid analgesics for tonsillectomy.

Search strategy

Two authors independently searched electronic databases including PubMed, OVID, EMBASE and Cochrane Review from inception to July 2012. The keywords used included: Adenotonsillectomy, Tonsillectomy, Analgesia, Bleeding, Perioperative and Postoperative. These were then combined in various combinations with specific NSAIDs.

Evaluation method

A systematic review and meta-analysis of all randomised control trials comparing bleeding rates and severity between NSAIDs versus placebo or opioids post-tonsillectomy.


A total of 36 studies met our inclusion criteria including 1747 children and 1446 adults. When all of the studies were combined in a meta-analysis using the most severe outcome, there was no increased risk of bleeding in those using NSAIDs after tonsillectomy. Use of NSAIDs in general [1.30 (0.90–1.88)] or in children [1.06 (0.65–1.74)] was not associated with increased risk of bleeding in general, most severe bleeding, secondary haemorrhage, readmission or need of reoperation due to bleeding. Similarly, there was no increased bleeding risk for specific NSAIDs in adults. In the studies looking at paediatric subjects, the overall odds ratio of bleeding was even lower than in the general population and not significant. This result is based on 18 studies, six of which had zero outcomes in either treatment arm. Similar to the general population analysis, there was no significant difference in any of the subanalyses: bleeds treated with reoperation, readmission or bleeds in children that could be managed conservatively. There were also no significant differences in the subanalyses of individual NSAIDs. Similarly, there was no significant difference in rates of bleeding in the subanalysis of studies that gave NSAIDs multiple times, for instance, both before and after surgery.


These results suggest that NSAIDs can be considered as a safe method of analgesia among children undergoing tonsillectomy.

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