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Anaesth Intensive Care. 2011 Mar;39(2):242-6.

Randomised controlled trial comparing oral and intravenous paracetamol (acetaminophen) plasma levels when given as preoperative analgesia.

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Department of Anaesthesia, North Bristol National Health Service Trust, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Gastric absorption of oral paracetamol (acetaminophen) may be unreliable perioperatively in the starved and stressed patient. We compared plasma concentrations of parenteral paracetamol given preoperatively and oral paracetamol when given as premedication. Patients scheduled for elective ear; nose and throat surgery or orthopaedic surgery were randomised to receive either oral or intravenous paracetamol as preoperative medication. The oral dose was given 30 minutes before induction of anaesthesia and the intravenous dose given pre-induction. All patients were given a standardised anaesthetic by the same specialist anaesthetist who took blood for paracetamol concentrations 30 minutes after the first dose and then at 30 minute intervals for 240 minutes. Therapeutic concentrations of paracetamol were reached in 96% of patients who had received the drug parenterally, and 67% of patients who had received it orally. Maximum median plasma concentrations were 19 mg.l(-1) (interquartile range 15 to 23 mg.l(-1)) and 13 mg.l(-1) (interquartile range 0 to 18 mg.l(-1)) for the intravenous and oral group respectively. The difference between intravenous and oral groups was less marked after 150 minutes but the intravenous preparation gave higher plasma concentrations throughout the study period. It can be concluded that paracetamol gives more reliable therapeutic plasma concentrations when given intravenously.

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