Perioperative Challenges of Heroin Addiction: A Case Report of Opioid-Free Anesthesia in Tongue Carcinoma Excision With Free-Flap Reconstruction

Cureus. 2023 Jun 30;15(6):e41195. doi: 10.7759/cureus.41195. eCollection 2023 Jun.


Anesthesia for major head and neck surgery is historically heavily reliant on opioids with deleterious consequences. We reported a case of a patient with a history of heroin abuse submitted to a tongue carcinoma excision, followed by free-flap reconstruction under opioid-free anesthesia. We used a propofol total intravenous anesthesia and perfusions of ketamine, dexmedetomidine, lidocaine, and magnesium sulfate for analgesia, complemented by boluses of dexamethasone, acetaminophen, parecoxib, and metamizole. Hemodynamic needs of the procedure were addressed by titrating perfusions of sodium nitroprusside or dobutamine. The patient was weaned from the ventilator at the end of the surgery. Surgical outcomes were achieved and opioid-free analgesia allowed early reestablishment of bodily functions without compromise of adequate pain control. Anesthesia protocols for free-flap surgery still lack scientific evidence, especially in the context of substance abuse: opioid-sparing approaches seem a viable option, which requires further studies and familiarity by health care professionals.

Keywords: free flap reconstruction; heroin abuse; opioid abuse; opioid-free analgesia; perioperative pain management.

Publication types

  • Case Reports