A Randomized Double-Blind Crossover Comparison of Continuous and Intermittent Subcutaneous Administration of Opioid for Cancer Pain
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ABSTRACT Although the preferred route of opioid administration is oral, patients with cancer often require an alternative route. Options include continuous subcutaneous infusion (CSCI) or regularly scheduled intermittent subcutaneous injections (ISCI). CSCI maintains steady drug levels, theoretically avoiding the "bolus effect" of nausea and sedation immediately post-dose, and breakthrough pain prior to the next dose. However, portable infusion pumps can be costly to use. The Edmonton Injector is an inexpensive portable device for ISCI. CSCI and ISCI have not been directly compared. The objective of this trial was to compare CSCI and ISCI of opioid for treatment of cancer pain. Patients were recruited from two tertiary palliative care units. Eligibility criteria included stable cancer pain requiring opioid therapy, need for parenteral route, and normal cognition. Patients were randomly assigned to receive opioid by CSCI by portable pump or ISCI by Edmonton Injector for 48 hours, followed by crossover to the alternative modality for 48 hours. During each phase, placebo was administered by the alternative modality. The study was closed after 12 patients were entered, due to slow accrual. Eleven patients completed the study. There were no differences between CSCI and ISCI in mean visual analogue score (VAS) for pain, nausea or drowsiness; categorical rating score of pain; number of breakthrough opioid doses per day; global rating of treatment effectiveness; or adverse effects. In all cases, patients and investigators expressed no preference for one modality over another. Further research is required to confirm that opioid administration by CSCI and ISCI provide similar analgesic and adverse effects.
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