Single-dose intravenous paracetamol or propacetamol for prevention or treatment of postoperative pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Anaesth. 2011 Jun;106(6):764-75. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer107. Epub 2011 May 9.


Paracetamol is the most commonly prescribed analgesic for the treatment of acute pain. The efficacy and safety of i.v. formulations of paracetamol is unclear. We performed a systematic search (multiple databases, bibliographies, any language, to May 2010) for single-dose, randomized, controlled clinical trials of propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol for acute postoperative pain in adults or children. Thirty-six studies involving 3896 patients were included. For the primary outcome, 37% of patients (240/367) receiving propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol experienced at least 50% pain relief over 4 h compared with 16% (68/527) receiving placebo (number needed to treat=4.0; 95% confidence interval, 3.5-4.8). The proportion of patients in propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol groups experiencing at least 50% pain relief diminished over 6 h. Patients receiving propacetamol or paracetamol required 30% less opioid over 4 h and 16% less opioid over 6 h than those receiving placebo. However, this did not translate to a reduction in opioid-induced adverse events (AEs). Similar comparisons between propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol and active comparators were either not statistically significant, not clinically significant, or both. AEs occurred at similar rates with propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol and placebo. However, pain on infusion occurred more frequently in those receiving propacetamol compared with placebo (23% vs 1%). A single dose of either propacetamol or i.v. paracetamol provides around 4 h of effective analgesia for about 37% of patients with acute postoperative pain. Both formulations are associated with few AEs, although patients receiving propacetamol have a higher incidence of pain on infusion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage*
  • Acetaminophen / adverse effects
  • Acetaminophen / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen
  • propacetamol