Clonidine - a potent analgesic adjuvant

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Purpose of reviewThe α2-adrenoceptor agonist clonidine is one of the most widely investigated substances in anaesthesia and pain therapy. Recently, numerous experimental and clinical studies have allowed a better understanding of its underlying mechanisms of action and interactions with other analgesic drugs.Recent findingsSeveral experimental studies have shown that clonidine may improve the analgesic effect of anti-inflammatory agents and also have significant peripheral antinociceptive effects. Volunteer and clinical studies have demonstrated analgesic effects of clonidine after systemic administration, whereas local administration of plain clonidine (e.g. intra-articular, intravenous regional) showed only limited clinical efficacy. The major clinical place of clonidine may thus be as an adjuvant to other analgesics, as shown in a number of studies in which clonidine has been investigated in combination with local anaesthetics, opioids and ketamine. An increasing number of studies have now investigated clonidine in paediatric patients and have demonstrated that the effects are generally similar to those in adults. Furthermore, it seems that in paediatric patients the side-effects of clonidine are predictable and of limited clinical importance.SummaryDuring the past decade clonidine has been investigated as an adjuvant for general and regional anaesthesia and in the postoperative period. There is no doubt that clonidine improves analgesia after systemic, spinal or peripheral opioids, and prolongs the analgesic action of most local anaesthetics. The side-effects of usual doses of clonidine are predictable. Given the clinical experience of an increasing number of hospitals, clonidine should no longer be considered an experimental drug, but a useful addendum to the pharmacological armamentarium.

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