Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 482–485

Opioid responsiveness in patients with advanced head and neck cancer

  • Sebastiano Mercadante

DOI: 10.1007/s005200050199

Cite this article as:
Mercadante, S. Support Care Cancer (1998) 6: 482. doi:10.1007/s005200050199


The degree of opioid responsiveness in patients with different pain syndromes associated with advanced head and neck cancer was studied with the aid of various indices that have proved to be easy to compare and capable of eliciting individual profiles of opioid responsiveness in cancer patients with pain. Thirty-seven patients requiring opioid therapy for more than 6 weeks were reviewed. The opioid escalation index (OEI) was lower in aged patients, albeit not significantly. Significant differences in OEI were found among patients belonging to the different categories of responses proposed. Although higher doses were needed than reported in the general population, pain was considered acceptable and most patients were classified as partially responsive. Neuropathic pain was associated with higher OEIs. The indices applied will be useful in clinical research to demonstrate individual profiles of opioid responsiveness, from cases of easy and immediate pain control to unresponsiveness to opioid treatment, which can be difficult to evaluate in the clinical setting.

Key words Cancer pain Head and neck cancer Opioid responsiveness 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastiano Mercadante
    • 1
  1. 1.Pain Relief and Palliative Care, SAMOT, via Libertà 191, I-90143 Palermo, Italy Tel.: +39–91–302876 Fax: +39–91–303098 email: mercadsa@tin.itIT

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