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Pain. 1999 Apr;80(3):453-62.

Are opioids effective in relieving neuropathic pain?

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Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology, Saint Joseph Hospital, Veldhoven, The Netherlands.


The purpose of this review is to identify important issues and to review the data that underlie the controversial effectiveness of opioids in relieving neuropathic pain. This controversy seems related to the use of multiple definitions of neuropathic pain together with its distinct mechanisms in both experimental animal models and human neuropathic pain syndromes, methodological shortcomings in available randomized controlled clinical trials, different methods of pain assessment, the inappropriate use of terms like efficacy and responsiveness, differential responses in spontaneous versus evoked pains, interindividual differences to specific opioids and opioid doses, and duration of follow-up. New randomized controlled clinical trials with opioids in neuropathic pain are still needed. These studies should include larger patient samples with rigorously defined homogeneous neuropathic pain syndromes. Active placebo's mimicking side-effects should be included in the double-blind design, and control of unmasking should be performed. Individual titration of the opioid dose and active management of side-effects in long-term follow-up studies need to measure both pain relief and quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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