Is there a role for gabapentin in preventing or treating pain following thoracic surgery?

Mustafa Zakkar, Stephanie Frazer, Ian Hunt
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2013, 17 (4): 716-9
A best evidence topic in cardiothoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether gabapentin, a commonly prescribed neuropathic analgesic and anticonvulsant, is safe and beneficial in patients with post-thoracotomy pain following thoracic surgery. Seventeen papers were identified using the search described below, and five papers presented the best evidence to reach conclusions regarding the issues of interest for this review. Side effects and complications as well as evidence of benefit, typically using various pain-scoring systems, were included in the assessment. The author, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes, results and study weaknesses of the papers are tabulated. The systematic review of two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrated that the use of a single dose gabapentin does not reduce pain scores or the need for epidural or morphine immediately in hospital following thoracic surgery. One double-blinded RCT used multiple doses of gabapentin perioperatively and showed that oral gabapentin administered preoperatively and during the first 2 days postoperatively, in conjunction with patient controlled analgesia morphine, provides effective analgesia in thoracic surgery with a consequent improvement in postoperative pulmonary function and less morphine consumption. One prospective clinical study comparing a 2-month course of gabapentin with naproxen sodium for chronic post thoracotomy pain following surgery showed significant improvement in both the visual analogue scale (VAS) score and the Leeds assessment of neuropathic symptoms and signs (LANSS) at 60 days in the gabapentin (P = 0.001). One prospective study of out-patients with chronic pain (>4 weeks since thoracotomy performed) suggested that gabapentin is effective, safe and well tolerated when used for persistent postoperative and post-traumatic pain in thoracic surgery patients. We conclude that there is no evidence to support the role of a single preoperative oral dose of gabapentin in reducing pain scores or opioid consumption following thoracic surgery. Multiple dosing regimens may be beneficial in reducing acute and chronic pain; however, more robust randomized control studies are needed.


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