Gabapentin and pregabalin for the acute post-operative pain management. A systematic-narrative review of the recent clinical evidences

Curr Drug Targets. 2009 Aug;10(8):716-33. doi: 10.2174/138945009788982513.


Background: Gabapentin and pregabalin inhibit Ca(2+) currents via high-voltage-activated channels containing the alpha2delta-1 subunit, reducing neurotransmitter release and attenuating the postsynaptic excitability. They are antiepileptic drugs successfully used also for the chronic pain treatment. A large number of clinical trials indicate that gabapentin and pregabalin could be effective as postoperative analgesics. This systematic-narrative review aims to analyse the most recent evidences regarding the effect of gabapentinoids on postoperative pain treatment.

Methods: Medline, The Cochrane Library, EMBASE and CINHAL were searched for recent (2006-2009) randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of gabapentin-pregabalin for postoperative pain relief in adults. Quality of RCTs was evaluated according to Jadad method. Visual analogue scale (VAS), opioid consumption and side-effects (nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sedation) were considered the most important outcomes.

Results: An overall of 22 gabapentin (1640 patients), 8 pregabalin (707 patients) RCTs and seven meta-analysis were involved in this review. Gabapentin provided better post-operative analgesia and rescue analgesics sparing than placebo in 6 of the 10 RCTs that administered only pre-emptive analgesia. Fourteen RCTs suggested that gabapentin did not reduce PONV when compared with placebo, clonidine or lornoxicam. Pregabalin provided better post-operative analgesia and rescue analgesics sparing than placebo in two of the three RCTs that evaluated the effects of pregabalin alone vs placebo. Four studies reported no pregabalin effects on preventing the PONV.

Conclusion: Gabapentin and pregabalin reduce pain and opioid consumption after surgery in confront with placebo, but comparisons with other standard post-operative regimens are not sufficient. Gabapentin and pregabalin seem not to have any influence on the prevention of PONV.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amines / pharmacology
  • Amines / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids / pharmacology
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Gabapentin
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pregabalin
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / therapeutic use


  • Amines
  • Analgesics
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • Pregabalin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Gabapentin