Send to

Choose Destination
Korean J Pain. 2014 Jul;27(3):200-9. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2014.27.3.200. Epub 2014 Jun 30.

Current evidence for spinal opioid selection in postoperative pain.

Author information

Department of Anaesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Donostia University Hospital, San Sebastián, Spain.



Spinal opioid administration is an excellent option to separate the desirable analgesic effects of opioids from their expected dose-limiting side effects to improve postoperative analgesia. Therefore, physicians must better identify either specific opioids or adequate doses and routes of administration that result in a mainly spinal site of action rather than a cerebral analgesic one.


The purpose of this topical review is to describe current available clinical evidence to determine what opioids reach high enough concentrations to produce spinally selective analgesia when given by epidural or intrathecal routes and also to make recommendations regarding their rational and safety use for the best management of postoperative pain. To this end, a search of Medline/Embase was conducted to identify all articles published up to December 2013 on this topic.


Recent advances in spinal opioid bioavailability, based on both animals and humans trials support the theory that spinal opioid bioavailability is inversely proportional to the drug lipid solubility, which is higher in hydrophilic opioids like morphine, diamorphine and hydromorphone than lipophilic ones like alfentanil, fentanyl and sufentanil.


Results obtained from meta-analyses of RTCs is considered to be the 'highest' level and support their use. However, it's a fact that meta-analyses based on studies about treatment of postoperative pain should explore clinical surgery heterogeneity to improve patient's outcome. This observation forces physicians to use of a specific procedure surgical-based practical guideline. A vigilance protocol is also needed to achieve a good postoperative analgesia in terms of efficacy and security.


epidural opioids; intrathecal opioids; postoperative pain; spinal analgesia

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Korean Pain Society Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center