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Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2002 Dec;16(4):475-88.

Pharmacology of systemic analgesics.

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Deportment of Anaesthesiology, Flemish Free University of Brussels Medical Center, 1090 Brussels, Belgium.


Systemic administration of analgesic drugs is still the most widely used method for providing pain relief in acute painful situations. Opioids may be selected on the basis of their physicochemical characteristics and their diffusion index to the brain. But in clinical practice, their very steep concentration-analgesic effect relationship remains a critical aspect of opioid therapy. Thus, small fluctuations in plasma concentrations of opioids may lead to profound fluctuations in analgesic effect when their plasma and effect-site concentrations are near the minimum effective analgesic concentration (MEAC). Combining drugs acting on different mechanisms of nociceptive modulation offers benefits from additive/synergistic effects and will decrease the incidence of their adverse effects. Evidence-based reviews showed that effective pain relief using non-opioid analgesics relied on paracetamol supplemented with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The role of COX-2 selective inhibitors (CSIs) in acute pain relief still requires further evaluation. NSAIDs, CSIs and paracetamol share the property of morphine sparing in situations of severe (post-operative) pain. CSIs may be beneficial in patients in whom post-operative bleeding is a major surgical risk as the effects of NSAIDs on coagulation may last for days. Finally, low-dose ketamine infusions remain a worthwhile addition to opioid therapy. Analgesic concentrations of ketamine are 1/5th to 1/10th the anaesthetic concentration and exert significant inhibition on N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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