There are many factors affecting patient outcome after a surgical procedure. This list includes postoperative pain which is,
perhaps, the best example of predicable acute pain. Inadequate attention to pain management generally increases both patient
morbidity and mortality. Inadequate pain management also increases the requirements for induction and maintenance anesthetics,
predictably increases the hypotensive and respiratory depressant effects of these potent drugs. In addition, health care professionals
have a moral and ethical obligation to provide the most compassionate patient care possible. Effective pain management is
undeniably a basic patient right.
Studies have shown that the intensity of the perioperative pain directly affects the patient risk of developing chronic postoperative
pain. To provide the best control over pain we need to address it from the earliest possible point in time which should be
preemptively whenever possible. Delivering effective analgesics prior to the painful event is the first step in patient pain
control. Presurgical medications should be strategically selected to target multiple points along the pain pathways providing
multimodal analgesic benefit. Continuing pain management into the postop period maximizes patient comfort and patient return
to normal function.
Preanesthetic Medication: Mu opioids remain the most attractive preanesthetic foundation. This author favors the inclusion of midazolam in preanesthetic
combinations to enhance both sedative and analgesic effects. Mu opioids and midazolam, in combination, form a particularly
attractive pre preanesthetic pairing for geriatric and less healthy patients. Healthy patients will benefit from the addition
of a third pre preanesthetic element; either acepromazine or (dex)medetomidine. Including this third element gains additional
stress relief, a key component in pain and morbidity reduction. As a side note, this author does not use butorphanol for any
procedures of a painful nature. In addition, the calcium channel blocker, gabapentin 5 mg/kg PO, may be administered 2 hours
preoperatively for additional patient analgesic benefit.
Presurgical Analgesia: There few procedures that do not lend themselves to the use of local anesthetics either as local/regional blocks or intravenous
infusions. The most common local block locations in practice include dental/facial, declaw ring blocks, incisional line blocks,
intra-articular, and intratesticular blocks. Constant rate IV Infusions of pure mu agonist opioids, lidocaine, and ketamine
are excellent titratable analgesic combinations targeting the opioid receptors, sodium ion channels, and the NMDA/glutamate
receptors respectively. Analgesic CRIs are well suited to procedures of any type supporting both the balanced multimodal analgesic
principle and the balanced anesthesia principle. Epidural applications of analgesics and local anesthetics are often thought
to be beyond the reach of general veterinary practice but that does not need to be so. The author knows general practitioners
in rural private settings routinely performing epidurals on spay and neuter surgery patients. NSAID administration preoperatively
can be beneficial and is recommended by the author if the newer generation COX-2 selective drugs are used and if the practice
understands how to appropriately monitor blood pressures and is fully capable of effectively supporting blood pressures.
Intraoperative Analgesia: While the continuation of an analgesic CRI is an ideal method to manage intraop analgesia for any surgical patient there
are other worthy considerations. During a more painful surgical element, IV bolus mu agonist opioids are excellent tools to
enhance analgesia and minimize anesthetic needs. Fentanyl, methadone, oxymorphone, and hydromorphone are all well suited to
this end. Soaker catheters can be placed intraoperatively to facilitate continued infusions of local anesthetic at particularly
Immediate Postoperative Analgesia: CRIs are often extended into the postoperative period and may be maintained for days in certain situations. Dose rates must
generally be reduced as CRI duration is extended over lengthier periods. Soaker catheter local anesthetic infusions may be
in place and may be continued for days if soaker catheter integrity is maintained. Cryo Cuff chiller systems are outstanding
devices for managing pain and edema at sites located on extremities.
NSAIDs should be considered for all NSAID tolerant non-GI surgery patients if NSAIDs were not already included in the preoperative
Buprenorphine is an attractive transitional opioid helping to diminish the sedative and dysphoric aspects of the pure mu agonists
fentanyl, methadone, oxymorphone, and hydromorphone. Dosed at 0.020 to 0.060 mg/kg, the analgesia provided by buprenorphine
appears substantial and long lived, possibly lasting up to 12 hours at higher doses. Buprenorphine is particularly attractive
for postoperative pain of a mild to moderate nature.
The fentanyl patch is attractive as a fire-and-forget analgesic but it has two main drawbacks. Most importantly, studies have
shown that a significant percentage of patients may fail to achieve any significant plasma levels of the drug. Secondly, there
is a significant delay between application and significant analgesic influence, especially for dogs (up to 24 hours).
To Go Home Analgesics: Oral medications can be initiated postoperative once the patient is tolerant of PO drug administration.