Despite the growing recognition for analgesic needs in post-craniotomy patients, this remains a poorly studied area in neurological surgery. The class and regimen of analgesia that is most suitable for these patients remains controversial. The objective of this study is to examine the current beliefs and practices of Canadian neurosurgeons when managing post-craniotomy pain.
A survey was sent to all practicing Canadian neurosurgeons to examine the following aspects of analgesia in craniotomy patients: type of analgesics used, common side effects encountered, satisfaction with current regimen and the rationale for their practice.
Of 156 potential respondents, 103 neurosurgeons (66%) completed the survey. Codeine (59%) was the most prescribed firstline analgesic followed by morphine (38%). The use of a second-line opioid was significantly higher among codeine prescribers compared to morphine, 53% compared to 28% (p < 0.001). Nausea, constipation and neurologic depression were reported as common side effects by 76%, 66% and 27% of respondents respectively. Of the respondents, 90% reported a high level of satisfaction with their current choice of analgesia; nonetheless, they predominantly described their practice as personal preference or protocol driven rather than evidence-based.
Codeine - a weak opioid - is the most common first-line analgesic prescribed to craniotomy patients. This practice is associated with substantially increased reliance on potent opioids for rescue analgesia. Whether novel regimens can provide optimal pain control while minimizing neurologic and gastrointestinal side effects remains to be addressed by future trials.