Buprenorphine maintenance therapy hinders acute pain management in trauma

Colin J Harrington, Victor Zaydfudim
American Surgeon 2010, 76 (4): 397-9
Buprenorphine is a mixed opiate receptor agonist-antagonist growing in popularity as an office-based treatment for opioid-dependent patients. It has high affinity, but only partial agonism at the micro-opioid receptor resulting in a ceiling analgesic effect. At higher doses, buprenorphine potentiates antagonism at the kappa-opioid receptor. These properties make buprenorphine an effective maintenance treatment for opioid-dependent patients. These same properties, however, can interfere with the management of acute pain in patients on maintenance buprenorphine therapy. We present a case of a young multisystem trauma patient in whom adequate analgesia could not be achieved due to buprenorphine treatment before and through the early course of admission. Discontinuation of buprenorphine allowed for appropriate pain management and successful analgesia. Further education of acute care clinicians about buprenorphine pharmacology and careful selection of patients for buprenorphine maintenance therapy are needed to avoid delays of pain control in trauma patients.

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