NSAIDs can play major role in pre- and postoperative hysterectomy pain



This story appears courtesy of MDedge News.

By Randy Dotinga
[email protected]



LAS VEGAS – An ob.gyn. has some handy hysterectomy-related pain management tips for her colleagues: Don’t assume patients know how to titrate between NSAIDs and opioids after surgery. Consider neuropathic medications alone in patients undergoing minimally invasive hysterectomies. And take a lesson from French fry portions at fast-food restaurants: Don’t “super-size” opioid prescriptions.

Sawsan As-Sanie, MD, MPH, director of the University of Michigan Endometriosis Center, Ann Arbor, offered these and other recommendations about hysterectomy-related pain at the Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery Symposium.

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Try acetaminophen and an NSAID
In the preoperative period, a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and an NSAID can provide significant postop relief, Dr. As-Sanie said.

She highlighted a 2010 systematic review of 21 studies that included 1,909 patients and found acetaminophen/NSAID combinations improved pain intensity by about 35% in positive studies when compared with either acetaminophen or NSAID alone. The painkiller combination was positive – more effective than a solo agent – in 85% of studies of combo versus acetaminophen alone and 64% of studies of combo versus NSAID alone (Anesth Analg. 2010 Apr 1;110[4]:1170-9).

Another study, she said, found that there’s no clear advantage to IV administration for acetaminophen if patients can take the drug orally (Can J Hosp Pharm. 2015 May-Jun;68[3]:238-47).

Consider gabapentin, but not postoperatively
Dr. As-Sanie pointed to a 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis that suggested the use of preoperative gabapentin in abdominal hysterectomy reduces pain and opioid use. However, adding postoperative doses of gabapentin, she said, don’t appear to produce a greater effect (Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Jun;123[6]:1221-9).

Consider neuropathics for minimally invasive hysterectomy
Two studies, one in 2004 and the other in 2008, suggest that gabapentin (on a postop basis) and pregabalin (perioperatively) can reduce postop opioid use. (Pregabalin also was linked to more adverse effects.) “Even if they’re having a little bit of pain, they’re using fewer opioids,” she said (Pain. 2004 Jul;110[1-2]:175-81; Pain. 2008 Jan;134[1-2]:106-12).

Educate patients about postop painkiller use
Don’t assume that patients know how to adjust their over-the-counter painkiller use after surgery, Dr. As-Sanie said at the meeting jointly provided by Global Academy for Medical Education and the University of Cincinnati. Global Academy and this news organization are owned by the same company. “While we as physicians think that knowledge about the use of ibuprofen and Tylenol is something everyone should be born with, it’s not obvious to most patients and families.”

It’s important to teach patients to start with NSAIDs or Tylenol postoperatively, and if that doesn’t control pain, “you add opioids and use medications to control constipation as needed. As you recover, you reduce the amount of opioids first and then reduce the NSAIDs or Tylenol,” she said. “That education can be very helpful for the vast majority of patients, and it’s one of the most important things we can provide.”

Don’t over-prescribe opioids
For a 2017 study, Dr. As-Sanie and colleagues tracked hysterectomy patients and surveyed them about their postop opioid use. “When asked 2 weeks after surgery, most used far less than half of what they prescribed,” Dr. As-Sanie said. “If we gave them about 40 pills, they had between 13-15 pills left after the surgery on average. Nearly 50% didn’t use any of their medication” (Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Dec;130[6]:1261-8).

Dr. As-Sanie urged colleagues to remember the lesson of the rise of super-sized portions at fast-food restaurants: Give people more of something and they’ll eat (or use) more of it. And the reverse is true: “If you give people fewer pills, they will use fewer pills.”

Dr. As-Sanie highlighted the recommendations about opioid prescription levels for various surgical procedures, including different types of hysterectomies, at www.opioidprescribing.info. The recommendations are provided by the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network. They’re designed for opioid-naive patients and suggest the lowest doses for vaginal hysterectomy and the highest for abdominal hysterectomy, with recommended doses for laparoscopic and robotic hysterectomy in between.

Dr. As-Sanie disclosed she is a consultant for AbbVie and Myovant.


Global Academy for Medical Education and MDedge News are owned by the same parent company.