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Clin Pharmacokinet. 2005;44 Suppl 1:1-6.

The fentanyl HCl patient-controlled transdermal system (PCTS): an alternative to intravenous patient-controlled analgesia in the postoperative setting.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Yale-New Haven Medical Center, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Inadequate pain control in the postoperative period not only contributes to patient discomfort, but also causes physiological changes that may result in increased risk of myocardial ischaemia, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. These events complicate postoperative recovery and may lead to longer hospital stays as well as increased healthcare costs. Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) has emerged as an effective way for patients to manage their pain, allowing self-administration of small doses of analgesics to maintain a certain level of pain control. PCA is most commonly delivered via an intravenous (IV) or epidural route, and while patient satisfaction is higher with PCA than with conventional methods of analgesic administration, the invasiveness, costs and risk of errors associated with currently available modalities may limit their utility. These systems also require significant healthcare resources, as nurses must manually program the pumps to deliver the correct amount of medication. Several new PCA modalities are being developed to address these limitations. These systems deliver drug through a variety of routes, including nasal transmucosal and transdermal. Most notably, a self-contained, credit card-sized, transdermal PCA system is currently in the final stages of development. The fentanyl HCl patient-controlled transdermal system (PCTS; IONSYS, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., Raritan, NJ) uses an imperceptible, low-intensity direct current to transfer fentanyl on demand across the skin into the systemic circulation. This compact system is patient-activated, can be applied to the patient's upper arm or chest, and is designed to manage moderate-to-severe pain requiring opioid analgesia. The system delivers a preprogrammed amount of fentanyl HCI over 10 minutes, for a total of 80 doses, or for 24 hours, whichever occurs first. The on-demand dosing and pharmacokinetics of this system differentiate it from the passive transdermal formulation of fentanyl designed for the management of chronic pain. Clinical studies have shown that the fentanyl HCl PCTS is effective in the management of acute postoperative pain. These studies have also demonstrated that the system is safe and well tolerated by patients.

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