Study Design. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study to evaluate the effect of intravenously (IV) administered acetaminophen on postoperative pain in children and adolescents undergoing surgery for idiopathic scoliosis or spondylolisthesis.
Objective. To evaluate effectiveness of IV-administered acetaminophen on postoperative analgesia, opioid consumption, and acetaminophen concentrations after major spine surgery in adolescents.
Summary of Background Data. Scoliosis surgery is associated with severe postoperative pain, most commonly treated with IV-administered opioids. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as adjuvant to opioids, improve analgesia and reduce the need for opioids. However, by inhibiting cyclo-oxygenase enzymes peripherally, NSAIDs may inhibit bone healing. Acetaminophen, a centrally acting analgesic, does not have the adverse effects of NSAIDs and has improved analgesia in children after another orthopedic surgery.
Methods. In an institutional review board approved study, 36 American Society of Anesthesiology patient classification I to III patients of 10 to 18 years of age were analyzed. Acetaminophen 30 mg/kg, administered IV or 0.9% NaCl was administered at the end of scoliosis or spondylolisthesis surgery, and thereafter twice at 8-hour intervals. Timed blood samples for acetaminophen determination were taken between 0.25 and 20 hours after the first dose. All patients received standard propofol-remifentanil anesthesia. Pain scores (visual analogue scale [VAS], 0–10), opioid consumption, and adverse effects were recorded.
Results. In the surgical ward, 7 (39%) patients in the acetaminophen and 13 (72%) in the placebo group had a VAS pain score 6 or more (P < 0.05). There were fewer hours with VAS score 6 or more in the acetaminophen group compared with the placebo group (8.7% vs. 17.8% of the hours, P < 0.05). There was no difference in oxycodone consumption during the 24-hour follow-up between the 2 groups.
Conclusion. IV-administered acetaminophen 90 mg/kg/day, adjuvant to oxycodone, did improve analgesia, but did not diminish oxycodone consumption during 24 hours after major spine surgery in children and adolescents. All acetaminophen concentrations were in nontoxic levels.