The analgesic tramadol inhibits the neuronal reuptake of norepinephrine and 5-hydroxytryptamine, facilitates 5-hydroxytryptamine release, and activates [micro sign]-opioid receptors. Each of these actions is likely to influence thermoregulatory control. We therefore tested the hypothesis that tramadol inhibits thermoregulatory control. Eight volunteers were evaluated on four study days, on which they received no drugs, tramadol 125 mg, tramadol 250 mg, and tramadol 250 mg with naloxone, respectively. Skin and core temperatures were gradually increased until sweating was observed and then decreased until vasoconstriction and shivering were detected. The core temperature triggering each response defined its threshold. Tramadol decreased the sweating threshold by -1.03 +/- 0.67[degree sign]C[center dot][micro sign]g-1[center dot]mL (r (2) = 0.90 +/- 0.12). Tramadol also decreased the vasoconstriction threshold by -3.0 +/- 4.0[degree sign]C[center dot][micro sign]g-1[center dot]mL (r2 = 0.94 +/- 0.98) and the shivering threshold by -4.2 +/- 4.0[degree sign]C[center dot][micro sign]g-1[center dot]mL (r2 = 0.98 +/- 0.98). The sweating to vasoconstriction interthreshold range nearly doubled from 0.3 +/- 0.4[degree sign]C to 0.7 +/- 0.6[degree sign]C during the administration of large-dose tramadol (P = 0.04). The addition of naloxone only partially reversed the thermoregulatory effects of tramadol. The thermoregulatory effects of tramadol thus most resemble those of midazolam, another drug that slightly decreases the thresholds triggering all three major autonomic thermoregulatory defenses. In this respect, both drugs reduce the "setpoint" rather than produce a generalized impairment of thermoregulatory control. Nonetheless, tramadol nearly doubled the interthreshold range at a concentration near 200 ng/mL. This indicates that tramadol slightly decreases the precision of thermoregulatory control in addition to reducing the setpoint. Implications: The authors evaluated the effects of the analgesic tramadol on the three major thermoregulatory responses: sweating, vasoconstriction, and shivering. Tramadol had only slight thermoregulatory effects. Its use is thus unlikely to provoke hypothermia or to facilitate fever.
(Anesth Analg 1998;87:173-9)