The infiltration of local anaesthetic agents has been shown to reduce post-tonsillectomy pain. A number of recent studies have shown that the addition of agents such as clonidine and dexamethasone improve the efficacy of nerve blocks and spinal anaesthesia. The aim of this review was to determine whether additives to local anaesthetic agents improve post-tonsillectomy outcomes. Four major databases were systematically searched for all relevant studies published up to August 2016. All study designs with a control group receiving local anaesthetic infiltration and an intervention receiving the same infiltration with an added agent were included in this review. These studies were then assessed for level of evidence and risk of bias. The data were then analysed both qualitatively and where appropriate by meta-analysis. We reviewed 11 randomised controlled trial (RCTs) that included 854 patients. Due to inconsistencies in the methods used to report outcomes, both quantitative and qualitative comparisons were required to analyse the extracted data. Overall, we found that dexamethasone, magnesium, pethidine and tramadol reduce post-operative pain and analgesia use, with dexamethasone in particular significantly reducing post-operative nausea and vomiting and magnesium infiltration significantly reducing the incidence of laryngospasm. This systematic review of RCTs provides strong evidence that the use of dexamethasone and magnesium as additives to local anaesthetics reduces post-tonsillectomy pain and analgesia requirement. There is limited evidence that pethidine and tramadol have a similar effect on pain and analgesia requirement. The studies in this pooled analysis are sufficiently strong to make a level one recommendation that the addition of magnesium to local anaesthetics reduces the incidence of laryngospasm, a potentially lethal post-operative complication. Review level of evidence: 1.
Keywords: Dexamethasone; Laryngospasm; Local anaesthetic; Pain; Tonsillectomy.