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A Journal on Anesthesiology, Resuscitation, Analgesia and Intensive Care
ANALGESIA AND SEDATION SMART 2001
Minerva Anestesiologica 2001 April;67(4):332-7
Rational use of opioids
Mastronardi P., Cafiero T.
From the Department of Surgical Anesthesiological and Emergency Sciences, University ''Federico II'', Naples, Italy
The role of analgesia and sedation in intensive care units (ICU) is ancillary to other intensive care strategies, nevertheless they permit that every other diagnostic and therapeutic procedure is safely performed by keeping the patient pain-free, anxiety-free and cooperative. Commonly used opioids in ICU include morphine, fentanyl, sufentanil and remifentanil. The choice among opioid drugs relies on their pharmacokinetics and their pharamcodynamic effects. Cardiovascular stability observed with fentanyl and sufentanil indicates their use in hemodynamically compromised patients. Short-acting remifentanil offers several advantages in patients requiring prolonged infusions. The organ-independent metabolism of this newer molecule may be valuable in patients with multiple organ failure. The main indications for opioid analgesia and sedation in ICU include: 1) Anxiety, pain and agitation: in turn, they can increase cardiac workload, myocardial oxygen consumption and rate of dysrythmias; 2) immediate postoperative period after major surgery; 3) short-term invasive procedures. Potential advantages offered by opioids in the ICU setting also include: a) Cardiac protection: in animal models, it has been observed that delta-opiate receceptor stimulation confers a preconditioning-like protective effects against myocardial ischemia; b) Neuroprotection: recent studies suggest that mu- and kappa-opiate receptors are involved in ischemic preconditioning against seizures in the brain. During opioid therapy in the ICU, drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms should be anticipated and the dose adjusted accordingly.