Comparison of intravenous patient-controlled analgesia with tramadol versus morphine after microvascular breast reconstruction

M Silvasti, N Svartling, M Pitkänen, P H Rosenberg
European Journal of Anaesthesiology 2000, 17 (7): 448-55
Tramadol is a weak centrally acting analgesic and it might provide efficacious postoperative pain relief with minimal sedative effects in the use of intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). Sixty women scheduled to undergo microvascular breast reconstruction under standard general anaesthesia were enrolled in a study on the performance of patient-controlled analgesia with tramadol or morphine with special emphasis on drug- and technique-related side-effects. Seven patients were re-operated within the same day, leaving 25 patients in the tramadol group and 28 in the morphine group for comparison. When postoperative pain occurred, loading doses of either 10 mg tramadol or 1 mg morphine intravenous increments were administered in a double-blind fashion until the pain control was judged to be satisfactory by the patient. After that the patients received tramadol or morphine by a PCA apparatus (lockout 5 min, tramadol 450 microg kg-1, morphine 45 microg kg-1 bolus). In addition, all patients received 500 mg paracetamol rectally, three times a day. The potency ratio of tramadol to morphine was found to be between 8.5 : 1 (loading) and 11 : 1 (PCA). There was neither a significant difference between the groups in the overall satisfaction of the analgesic medication nor in the visual analogue and verbal rate scales for pain. Women in the tramadol group had more nausea and vomiting during the administration of loading doses (P < 0.05) and more patients in the tramadol group (7) than in the morphine group (3) (NS) wanted to discontinue the PCA therapy before the end of the study due to nausea. Sedation or blurred vision prevented the performance of the psychomotor tests in 22 and 32% of the tramadol and morphine patients, respectively. The remaining patients performed similarly in the Digit Symbol Substitution Test. In women receiving intravenous PCA for analgesia after microvascular breast reconstruction tramadol and morphine provided comparable postoperative analgesia with similar sedative effects. However, tramadol was associated with a disturbingly high incidence of nausea and vomiting.

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