Dextromethorphan for the reduction of immediate and late postoperative pain and morphine consumption in orthopedic oncology patients: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study

Avi A Weinbroum, Alexander Gorodetzky, Alexander Nirkin, Yehuda Kollender, Jacob Bickels, Nissim Marouani, Valery Rudick, Isaac Meller
Cancer 2002 September 1, 95 (5): 1164-70

BACKGROUND: Postoperative pain is mediated centrally by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. The beneficial effects of preincision oral dextromethorphan (DM), which is an NMDA antagonist, on postoperative pain and intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (IV-PCA) morphine (MO) consumption have been examined in patients undergoing surgery. The authors investigated 75 patients who underwent surgery for bone and soft tissue malignancies, in whom postoperative pain is more severe compared with patients who undergo general surgery.

METHODS: Patients received placebo, DM 60 mg, or DM 90 mg (25 patients per group) before surgery and on each of the two following days in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled manner. Postoperative IV-PCA MO was started when subjective pain intensity was >/= 4/10 (visual score) and lasted for 72 hours. Rescue drugs on demand were oral paracetamol or dipyrone.

RESULTS: The patients in the DM60 and DM90 groups similarly experienced 50-80% less pain (P < 0.01) compared with patients in the placebo group, both immediately and up to 3 days postoperatively, as well as a 50% reduction in the estimated overall maximal pain intensity (P < 0.01). Both DM groups consumed 50-70% less MO than the nonmedicated individuals in the placebo group (P < 0.01), and their demand for rescue drugs on the first postoperative day also was significantly lower (P < 0.01). Patients in the DM groups also were sedated less ( approximately 70%; P < 0.01). There were no differences among the groups in terms of when the patients left their beds, when they were discharged home, or the number of overall side effects.

CONCLUSIONS: DM is associated with reduced pain intensity, sedation, and analgesic requirements, even in patients undergoing surgery for bone and soft tissue malignancies. A 3-day DM administration neither increased the incidence of side effects nor accelerated ambulation and discharge home.

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