Opioid-induced hyperalgesia in clinical anesthesia practice: what has remained from theoretical concepts and experimental studies?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

This article reviews the phenomenon of opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH) and its implications for clinical anesthesia. The goal of this review is to give an update on perioperative prevention and treatment strategies, based on findings in preclinical and clinical research.

Recent findings

Several systems have been suggested to be involved in the pathophysiology of OIH with a focus on the glutaminergic system. Very recently preclinical data revealed that peripheral μ-opioid receptors (MORs) are key players in the development of OIH and acute opioid tolerance (AOT). Peripheral MOR antagonists could, thus, become a new prevention/treatment option of OIH in the perioperative setting. Although the impact of OIH on postoperative pain seems to be moderate, recent evidence suggests that increased hyperalgesia following opioid treatment correlates with the risk of developing persistent pain after surgery. In clinical practice, distinction among OIH, AOT and acute opioid withdrawal remains difficult, especially because a specific quantitative sensory test to diagnose OIH has not been validated yet.

Summary

Since the immediate postoperative period is not ideal to initiate long-term treatment for OIH, the best strategy is to prevent its occurrence. A multimodal approach, including choice of opioid, dose limitations and addition of nonopioid analgesics, is recommended.

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