Intraoperative Methadone Improves Postoperative Pain Control in Patients Undergoing Complex Spine Surgery

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BACKGROUND:Patients undergoing complex spine surgery frequently experience severe pain in the postoperative period. The combined opiate receptor agonist/N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist methadone may be an optimal drug for these patients given the probable involvement of N-methyl-D-aspartate systems in the mechanism of opioid tolerance and hyperalgesia.METHODS:Twenty-nine patients undergoing multilevel thoracolumbar spine surgery with instrumentation and fusion were enrolled in this prospective study and randomized to receive either methadone (0.2 mg/kg) before surgical incision or a continuous sufentanil infusion of 0.25 μg/kg/h after a load of 0.75 μg/kg. Postoperative analgesia was provided using IV opioids by patient-controlled analgesia. Patients were assessed with respect to pain scores (visual analog scale from 0 to 10), cumulative opioid requirement, and side effects at 24, 48, and 72 hours after surgery.RESULTS:Demographic data, duration, and type of surgery were comparable between the groups. Methadone reduced postoperative opioid requirement by approximately 50% at 48 hours (sufentanil versus methadone group, median [25%/75% interquartile range]: 63 mg [27.3/86.1] vs 25 mg [16.5/31.5] morphine equivalents, P = 0.023; and 72 hours: 34 mg [19.9/91.5] vs 15 mg [8.8/27.8] morphine equivalents, P = 0.024) after surgery. In addition, pain scores were lower by approximately 50% in the methadone group at 48 hours after surgery (sufentanil versus methadone group [mean ± SD] 4.8 ± 2.4 vs 2.8 ± 2.0, P = 0.026). The incidence of side effects was comparable in both groups.CONCLUSION:Perioperative treatment with a single bolus of methadone improves postoperative pain control for patients undergoing complex spine surgery.

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