The routine use of high-dose opioids for analgesia in patients with acute burns and soft-tissue injuries often leads to the development of opioid-induced constipation. The opioid antagonist methylnaltrexone (MLTX) reverses narcotic-related ileus without affecting systemic pain treatment. The authors’ burn center developed a bowel protocol that included administration of MLTX for relief of opioid-induced constipation after other methods failed. The authors performed a retrospective review of patients with acute burns or necrotizing soft-tissue infections, who had been given subcutaneous MLTX to induce laxation. All patients who received MLTX were included and all administrations of the drug were included in the analysis. The primary outcome examined was time to laxation from drug administration. Forty-eight patients received MLTX a total of 112 times. Six patients were admitted with soft-tissue injuries and the rest suffered burns with an average TBSA of 17%. The median patient age was 41 years and the majority (75%) were men. Administration of a single dose of MLTX resulted in laxation within 4 hours in 38% of cases, and within 24 hours in 68%. Patients given MLTX received an average of 174 mg morphine equivalents daily for pain control. MLTX was given after an average of 52 hours since the last bowel movement. As this experience has evolved, it has been incorporated into an organized bowel protocol, which includes MLTX administration after other laxatives have failed. MLTX is an effective laxation agent in patients with burn and soft-tissue injuries, who have failed conventional agents.
From the Department of Surgery and the Burn-Trauma ICU, University of Utah Health Center, Salt Lake City.
Presented at the 44th Annual Meeting of the American Burn Association, April 25–28, 2012, Seattle, Washington.
Address correspondence to Kelly Hewitt, MD, Department of Surgery and the Burn-Trauma ICU, 3B-3324, University of Utah Health Center, 50 N Medical Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84132.