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Pain. 2013 Aug;154(8):1383-90. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.04.023. Epub 2013 Apr 16.

Combination of a reduced dose of an intrathecal local anesthetic with a small dose of an opioid: a meta-analysis of randomized trials.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, University Hospital Münster, Münster, Germany.


We tested whether the combination of a reduced dose of a local anesthetic (LA) with an opioid compared with a standard dose of the same LA alone guaranteed adequate intraoperative anesthesia and postoperative analgesia and decreased LA-related adverse effects. We systematically searched (to November 2012) for randomized comparisons of combinations of a reduced dose of an LA with a concomitant opioid (experimental) with a standard dose of the LA alone (control) in adults undergoing surgery with single-injection intrathecal anesthesia without general anesthesia. We included 28 trials (1393 patients). In experimental groups, the median decrease in LA doses was 40% (range, 12%-70%). There was no difference between experimental and control groups in the need for intraoperative opioids or general anesthesia for failed block or in the duration of postoperative analgesia. With experimental interventions, there was evidence of a reduction in the duration of motor blockade postoperatively (average, -50 minutes), time to discharge from hospital or PACU (-33 minutes), time to ambulation (-28 minutes), and time to urination (-14 minutes). There was also evidence of a decrease in the risk of shivering (risk ratio [RR]: 0.26; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.12-0.56), nausea (RR: 0.45; 95% CI: 0.31-0.66), and arterial hypotension (RR: 0.52; 95% CI: 0.35-0.78). The risk of pruritus was increased (RR: 11.7; 95% CI: 6.2-21.9). Adding an opioid to a reduced dose of an intrathecal LA can decrease LA-related adverse effects and improve recovery from the spinal block without compromising intraoperative anesthesia or duration of postoperative analgesia.

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