Analgesics for cardiac surgery patients in critical care: Describing current practice

University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle.
American Journal of Critical Care (Impact Factor: 2.12). 02/1994; 3(1):31-9.
Source: PubMed


In the last 10 years, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses has twice ranked pain management as a priority issue for research and practice. Recent research findings suggest that undermedication of patients continues both in and out of critical care. Postoperative cardiac surgery patients have reported detailed recollections of pain experiences while in critical care, yet little is known about management of postoperative cardiac surgery pain.
The purpose of this study was to describe current practice related to analgesic prescription and administration for postoperative cardiac surgery patients in critical care.
Medical records of 80 adults undergoing cardiac surgery in two hospitals were randomly selected for review. Data pertaining to pain medications prescribed and doses administered for the day of surgery, first and second postoperative days were recorded for 66 eligible subjects.
All but one patient had a prescription for intravenous morphine, hourly as needed. In addition, all patients had prescriptions for one or more oral analgesics as needed. Gender and age effects were noted for analgesic prescriptions. The average total amount of intravenous morphine given over the 3 days was 13.9 +/- 13.5 mg in an average of 4 +/- 3.7 doses. The average total number of acetaminophen with oxycodone tablets given over the 3 days was 5.8 +/- 5.4 tablets in an average of 3.6 +/- 3.0 doses. Age and hospital effects were noted in the administration of analgesics.
The finding of small and infrequent analgesic doses is consistent with other studies conducted in and out of critical care. Important inconsistencies, or variations in practice, exist in both the prescription and administration of analgesics for postoperative cardiac surgery patients in the critical care setting.

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    • "Inadequate postoperative analgesia has been recognized as a common problem associated with suboptimal patient outcomes [1]. Postoperative pain results in autonomic nervous system stimulation and the release of catecholamines . "
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    ABSTRACT: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are routinely used after coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), yet their effects have seldom been evaluated in randomized controlled settings. The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy and safety of a commonly used NSAID, naproxen. We hypothesized that naproxen would reduce postoperative pain following CABG without increasing complications. Patients (N=98) undergoing primary CABG were randomized to receive naproxen (500 mg q12hX5 doses via suppository started 1h after operation, followed by oral 250 mg q8hX6 doses) or placebo. Standard analgesic and anti-emetic regimens were available to both patient groups. Interventions were double-blinded. Primary end-points were postoperative pain measured before and after chest physiotherapy by visual analog scale and pulmonary slow vital capacity (SVC). Baseline characteristics were equivalent between the two groups. Over the first 4 postoperative days, naproxen decreased pain by 47+/-17% on average before chest physiotherapy (P=0.034), and 44+/-13% after chest physiotherapy (P=0.0092). Patients who received naproxen also had better preservation of SVC over the first 4 postoperative days (mean loss of SVC from baseline: 2.1+/-0.1 vs. 2.5+/-0.1l, naproxen vs. placebo, P=0.0032). This was concomitant with a lower white blood cell count observed in naproxen patients (9.2+/-0.3 vs. 12.7+/-1.5x10(9)/l, naproxen vs. placebo, P=0.03). Patients who received naproxen had more chest tube drainage after 4h postoperatively, but there was no difference in the incidence or amount of transfusions. There was no difference in medication use, length of stay, or in the incidence of atrial fibrillation, azotemia, and other complications. Naproxen is an effective and low-cost adjunct for optimization of pain control and lung recovery after CABG. Its use may result in increased chest tube drainage, but no apparent increase in other complications.
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