Effects of β2 agonists on post-thoracotomy pain incidence

Eur J Pain. 2015 Nov;19(10):1428-36. doi: 10.1002/ejp.673. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


Background: Pre-clinical research has shown β2 -adrenoceptors to be essential for the antiallodynic action of antidepressant drugs in murine models of neuropathic pain and that sustained treatment with β2 -agonists has an antiallodynic action. Here, we clinically investigated whether chronic β2 -agonist treatments may influence the incidence of post-thoracotomy chronic pain, defined as pain that recurs or persists along a thoracotomy scar more than 2 months after surgery, either neuropathic or non-neuropathic.

Methods: We conducted an epidemiological study on patients operated by thoracotomy. Demographic data, medical history and treatments concomitant to the surgery were recorded at a follow-up visit. Information on perioperative treatments was collected from the anaesthesia records and confirmed by the patients. In patients with pain at the surgery level, post-thoracotomy chronic pain was assessed by clinical examination and numeric scale. Physical examination and DN4 questionnaire were used to discriminate neuropathic and non-neuropathic chronic pain at scar level.

Results: One hundred and eighty-nine patients were included. Eighty-one patients reported persisting thoracic pain, with neuropathic characteristics in 58 of them (30% of the 189 patients). The most common chronic drugs during the perioperative period were inhaled β2 -agonists (28.6%). The chronic use of β2 -agonists was an independent predictor of thoracic neuropathic pain (but not of non-neuropathic pain) and was associated with a five-fold decrease in the relative incidence of neuropathic pain [OR = 0.19 (0.06-0.45)].

Conclusions: These data suggest a possible influence of chronic β2 -agonist treatments on neuropathic pain secondary to thoracotomy. This apparent preventive effect of β2 -agonist treatments should warrant controlled clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuralgia / etiology*
  • Neuralgia / prevention & control
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Thoracotomy / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists