A survey of post-craniotomy analgesia in British neurosurgical centres: Time for perceptions and prescribing to change

D. Kotak, B. Cheserem, A. Solth

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Patients undergoing craniotomy may experience moderate to severe pain postoperatively. An audit of analgesia of post-craniotomy patients at King's College Hospital demonstrated variable analgesic prescribing practices and suboptimal analgesia in some patients. Prior to introducing a formal post-operative analgesic regime, a survey of the adult neurosurgical units within the United Kingdom was undertaken to ascertain whether there was a general consensus regarding post-craniotomy pain management. Questions were asked as to whether there was a standardized analgesic regimeprotocol; which first, second, third, and fourth-line analgesics were used; whether non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were used; what the preferred anti-emetic was; and whether pain was routinely assessed. We also undertook a survey of neurosurgeons, neuroanaesthetists, intensivists, and neurosurgery high dependency nurses within our institution to ascertain what their perceptions were of post-craniotomy pain. All 31 adult neurosurgical units were surveyed. Twenty three percent 7 units had a standardized analgesic regimeprotocol and 65% routinely assessed pain post-operatively 20 units. Seventy percent of units used codeine phosphate or dihydrocodeine 22 units as the first line opioid the other 30% using morphine 9 units. Forty two percent 13 units used tramadol; patient controlled analgesia was used in 3 units. Regular paracetamol was prescribed in all but five (16%) units. Fifty two percent of units 16 used NSAIDs; of those that used NSAIDs 19% 316 prescribed them regularly. One unit used clonidine infusions. Anti-emetics were prescribed as required in all but two units. Cyclizine was the first-line anti-emetic in 45 of the units, ondansetron in 29% and metoclopramide in 16%. There is currently no consensus on pain management after craniotomy in neurosurgical centres in the UK. Until there are sufficiently powered randomized controlled studies to address the main safety and efficacy issues progress in this area will remain slow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-542
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Neurosurgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesia
  • Codeine
  • Craniotomy
  • Neurosurgery
  • Pain


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