Analgesia in the Initial Management of Acute Pancreatitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials

World J Surg. 2022 Apr;46(4):878-890. doi: 10.1007/s00268-021-06420-w. Epub 2022 Jan 7.


Background: The optimal analgesic strategy for patients with acute pancreatitis (AP) remains unknown.

Objective: The present systematic review and meta-analysis aims to compare the efficacy of different analgesic modalities trialled in AP.

Methods: A systematic search of PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, SCOPUS and Web of Science conducted up until June 2021, identified all randomised control trials (RCTs) comparing analgesic modalities in AP. A pooled analysis was undertaken of the improvement in pain scores as reported on visual analogue scale (VAS) on day 0, day 1 and day 2.

Results: Twelve RCTs were identified including 542 patients. Seven trial drugs were compared: opiates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), metamizole, local anaesthetic, epidural, paracetamol, and placebo. Across all modalities, the pooled VAS scores showed global improvement from baseline to day 2. Epidural analgesia appears to provide the greatest improvement in VAS within the first 24 h but is equivalent to opiates by 48 h. Within 24 h, NSAIDs offered similar pain-relief to opiates, while placebo also showed equivalence to other modalities but then plateaued. Local anaesthetics demonstrated least overall efficacy. VAS scores for opiate and non-opiate analgesics were comparable at baseline and day 1. The identified RCTs demonstrated significant statistical and methodological heterogeneity in pain-relief reporting.

Conclusions: There is remarkable paucity of level 1 evidence to guide pain management in AP with small datasets per study. Epidural administration appears effective within the first 24 h of AP although infrequently used and featured in only a single RCT. NSAIDs are an effective opiate sparing alternative during the first 24 h.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia*
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Opiate Alkaloids* / therapeutic use
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Pancreatitis* / complications
  • Pancreatitis* / drug therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Opiate Alkaloids