Background: Despite pharmacological treatment, 70-80% of patients report moderate to severe pain after surgery. Because nicotine has been reported to have analgesic properties in animal and human volunteer studies, the authors assessed the analgesic efficacy of a single 3 mg dose of nicotine nasal spray administered before emergence from general anesthesia.
Methods: The authors conducted a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial of 20 healthy women (mean age 45 (SD 8) yr) who were to undergo uterine surgery through a low transverse incision. After the conclusion of surgery but before emergence from general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist administered either nicotine nasal spray or a placebo. Numerical analog pain score and morphine utilization and hemodynamic values were measured for 24 h.
Results: The patients treated with nicotine reported lower pain scores during the first hour after surgery (peak numerical analog score, 7.6 (SD 1.4) versus 5.3 (SD 1.6); P < 0.001) and used half the amount of morphine as the control group (12 (SD 6) versus 6 (SD 5) mg; P < 0.05). Patients who received nicotine still reported less pain than those in the control group 24 h after surgery (1.5 (SD 0.5) versus 4.9 (SD 1.4); P < 0.01). Systolic blood pressure was lower in the group that received nicotine (105 (SD 3) versus 122 (SD 3); P < 0.001), but there was no difference in diastolic blood pressure or heart rate.
Conclusions: Treatment with a single dose of nicotine immediately before emergence from anesthesia was associated with significantly lower reported pain scores during the first day after surgery. The decreased pain was associated with a reduction in morphine utilization and the analgesic effect of nicotine was not associated with hypertension or tachycardia.