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Br Med Bull. 2004 Dec 13;71:13-27. Print 2004.

Pre-emptive analgesia.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesiology, Glostrup University Hospital Ndr. Ringvej, DK-2600 Glostrup, Denmark. jbdahl@dadlnet.dk


Transmission of pain signals evoked by tissue damage leads to sensitization of the peripheral and central pain pathways. Pre-emptive analgesia is a treatment that is initiated before the surgical procedure in order to reduce this sensitization. Owing to this 'protective' effect on the nociceptive system, pre-emptive analgesia has the potential to be more effective than a similar analgesic treatment initiated after surgery. Theoretically, immediate postoperative pain may be reduced and the development of chronic pain may be prevented. Although some clinical studies have demonstrated significant effects on acute postoperative pain, no major clinical benefits of pre-emptive analgesia have been documented. The only way to prevent sensitization of the nociceptive system might be to block completely any pain signal originating from the surgical wound from the time of incision until final wound healing. Other pharmacological interventions, including 'antihyperalgesic' drugs such as NMDA-receptor antagonists and gabapentin, may interfere with the induction and maintenance of sensitization. Future studies will investigate the analgesic effect of prolonged multimodal combinations of different classes of 'traditional' analgesics and 'antihyperalgesics' on postoperative pain.

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