The use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for analgesia after tonsillectomy is controversial because NSAIDS, through platelet inhibition, may increase the risk of perioperative bleeding. We systematically searched for randomized, controlled trials that reported on the incidence of perioperative bleeding attributable to the use of NSAIDs in patients undergoing tonsillectomy. As secondary outcome measures, we analyzed the quality of pain relief and the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Twenty-five studies with data from 970 patients receiving a NSAID and 883 receiving a non-NSAID treatment or a placebo were analyzed. Data were combined using a fixed-effect model. Of four bleeding end points (intraoperative blood loss, postoperative bleeding, hospital admission, and reoperation because of bleeding), only reoperation happened significantly more often with NSAIDs: Peto-odds ratio, 2.33 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12-4.83) and number-needed-to-treat, 60 (95% CI, 34-277). Compared with opioids, NSAIDs were equianalgesic, and the risk of emesis was significantly decreased (relative risk, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.63-0.85; numbers-needed-to-treat, 9; 95% CI, 5-19).
Implications: The evidence for nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs to increase the risk of bleeding after tonsillectomy is equivocal, and the risk-benefit ratio is not straightforward. There is some evidence for an increased likelihood of reoperation because of bleeding. The agenda must be one of further research rather than of clinical recommendations.