, Volume 44, Supplement 5, pp 1–13

Do the Pharmacodynamics of the Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Suggest a Role in the Management of Postoperative Pain?

  • Laurence E. Mather

DOI: 10.2165/00003495-199200445-00003

Cite this article as:
Mather, L.E. Drugs (1992) 44(Suppl 5): 1. doi:10.2165/00003495-199200445-00003


Until recently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were regarded as weak analgesic agents with a potent antiplatelet effect that severely limited their perioperative usefulness. However, the recent development of injectable NSAIDs has stimulated a re-evaluation of the potential role of this class of drugs in postoperative pain management. In general surgery, NSAIDs have been shown to be effective analgesics when administered after surgery, as judged by either a reduction in pain scores and/or by an opioid sparing effect. Parenteral NSAIDs alone, notably ketorolac and diclofenac, may be adequate or even preferred analgesic agents after minor surgery. In dental surgery, NSAIDs produce greater initial analgesia than steroids, although the latter produce greater suppression of swelling and less functional loss. NSAID pretreatment results in only modest suppression of swelling compared with placebo. These data suggest that the acute analgesic effects of NSAIDs in oral surgery and probably other models result from suppression of a nociceptive process, rather than a generalised anti-inflammatory effect. This view challenges the traditional association between inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis and the therapeutic effects of these drugs.

The variety of NSAIDs leads to a range in half-lives from short, e.g. diclofenac (1h), intermediate, e.g. ketorolac (5h), to long, e.g. tenoxicam (60h), which has implications for both convenience of the dosage regimen and drug accumulation. For some racemic NSAIDs (e.g. ibupro-fen), metabolic Isactivation’ of the inactive R-enantiomer to the active S-enantiomer occurs. Renal dysfunction may increase both the plasma concentration and body residence time of NSAIDs, thereby increasing the risk of adverse effects. The concomitant effects of anaesthesia have not yet been studied.

The principal concern regarding the use of perioperative NSAIDs is the risk of decreased haemostasis and wound healing. Although it has been found that NSAIDs prolong bleeding times in patients, values generally remain below the upper limits of those in generally healthy patients. Healing of gastrointestinal anastomoses may be compromised by NSAID administration but cor-neal healing and bone remodelling are not. There is a need for further research into the potential for renal side effects with NSAIDs in the perioperative setting, where the effects of anaesthesia and surgery may increase the risk of side effects, particularly in elderly patients. The main benefits of NSAIDs derive from opioid sparing (e.g. reduction in perioperative nausea and vomiting and improvement in ventilation), although some studies allude to an enhanced quality of analgesia from the combination compared with either NSAID or opioid alone. The question of pre- vs postinjury treatment with NSAIDs remains unresolved.

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence E. Mather
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Royal North Shore HospitalUniversity of SydneySt LeonardsAustralia

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