Comparison of intravenous ketorolac and meperidine in the treatment of biliary colic

J Emerg Med. 2002 Oct;23(3):237-41. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(02)00524-3.


To compare the analgesic efficacy and tolerability of intravenous (IV) ketorolac tromethamine with IV meperidine in the treatment of biliary colic, a prospective, randomized, double blind study was carried out upon a convenience sample of patients at a large inner city facility. Patients between the ages of 18 and 65 years of age with a history and physical examination consistent with biliary colic were enrolled over a 2-year period. Patients were randomly assigned to receive ketorolac 30 mg IV or meperidine 50 mg IV. Pain was quantified using a 4-point verbal rating system (VRS) as well as a visual analog scale (VAS). Patients were queried about their pain at times 0, 12 h, 1 h, and 2 h after administration of the study medication. Adverse effects were also recorded. A total of 324 patients completed the study protocol with 175 patients receiving ketorolac and 149 receiving meperidine. Patient demographics were similar for both groups with mean age for the ketorolac group of 36.1 years and for the meperidine group of 34.6 years. Both groups were predominantly Latino and over 80% of patients in both groups were female. No significant difference in pain control was found between ketorolac and meperidine in either the VAS or VRS for any time interval studied. The mean change in the VAS at time 2 h was 6.2 cm +/- 3.6 cm for the ketorolac group, compared with 6.7 cm +/- 3.6 cm for the meperidine group (p = 0.25). Although no significant difference was found in overall drug tolerability, patients receiving meperidine reported higher incidences of nausea and of dizziness than those receiving ketorolac (p = 0.009 and 0.003, respectively). Ketorolac tromethamine is a well-tolerated, effective medication in the treatment of acute biliary colic. It showed similar efficacy to meperidine with a decreased number of adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Biliary Tract Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Colic / drug therapy*
  • Dizziness / chemically induced
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Ketorolac / adverse effects
  • Ketorolac / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Meperidine / adverse effects
  • Meperidine / therapeutic use*
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Prospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Meperidine
  • Ketorolac