Improved Opioid Analgesic Effect Following Opioid Dose Reduction

Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Medicine Division, Penn State Milton S Hershey Medical Center, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033-0850, USA.
Pain Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.24). 10/2008; 9(6):724-7. DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2008.00501.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Traditionally, opioids have been the cornerstone of therapy for patients suffering from cancer pain, regardless of the potential to develop opioid tolerance. In chronic pain patients who experience worsening pain despite increasing doses of opioids, the clinical role of opioid-induced hyperalgesia is gaining more recognition.
Presented here is the case of a 56-year-old man with recurrent squamous cell lung carcinoma and spinal metastases, suffering with intractable 8/10 pain on the visual analog scale in his chest, lower thoracic spine, and upper lumbar spine. He was admitted five times for pain control. In spite of escalating doses of oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone, the patient continued to experience severe pain. Also, he endured undesirable sedation, fatigue, and generalized weakness. The clinical picture suggested the possibility of opioid-induced hyperalgesia. We decreased the hydromorphone dose by 40-50% and started methadone. The patient's pain level dropped to a more acceptable 3/10. He was more alert, and his pain was tolerable until his death.
Opioid-induced hyperalgesia might be considered in a patient who has no evidence of disease progression, who is on clinically reasonable doses of opioids, and whose pain escalates as opioid doses are increased. A reduction of opioids and the addition of a low-dose N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist may provide a favorable clinical outcome in those patients who have failed to benefit from opioid rotation and other adjunctive pain treatments.

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    ABSTRACT: Patients requiring chronic opioid therapy may not respond to or tolerate the first opioid prescribed to them, necessitating rotation to another opioid. They may also require dose increases for a number of reasons, including worsening disease and increased pain. Dose escalation to restore analgesia using the primary opioid may lead to increased adverse events. In these patients, rotation to a different opioid at a lower-than-equivalent dose may be sufficient to maintain adequate tolerability and analgesia. In published trials and case series, opioid rotation is performed either using a predetermined substitute opioid with fixed conversion methods, or in a manner that appears to be no more systematic than trial and error. In clinical practice, opioid rotation must be performed with consideration of individual patient characteristics, comorbidities (eg, concurrent psychiatric, pulmonary, renal, or hepatic illness), and concurrent medications, using flexible dosing protocols that take into account incomplete opioid cross-tolerance. References cited in this review were identified via a search of PubMed covering all English language publications up to May 21, 2013 pertaining to opioid rotation, excluding narrative reviews, letters, and expert opinion. The search yielded a total of 129 articles, 92 of which were judged to provide relevant information and subsequently included in this review. Through a review of this literature and from the authors' empiric experience, this review provides practical information on performing opioid rotation in clinical practice.
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    ABSTRACT: Although opioids-induced hyperalgesia (OIH) is mentioned as a potential cause of opioid dose escalation without adequate analgesia, true evidence in support of this notion is relatively limited. Most studies conducted in the context of acute and experimental pain, which seemingly demonstrated evidence for OIH, actually might have measured other phenomena such as acute opioid withdrawal or tolerance. OIH studies in patients with chronic pain have used various experimental pain models (such as cold pain tolerance or heat pain intensity). Therefore, the fact that they have yielded inconsistent results is hard to interpret. Thus far, with the exception of a few clinical case reports on OIH in patients with cancer pain and one prospective study in patients with chronic neuropathic pain, evidence for OIH in patients with chronic or cancer-related pain is lacking. Whether or not experimental pain models are necessary for establishing the clinical diagnosis of OIH, and which specific model is preferred, are yet to be determined.
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