Postoperative Pain and Analgesic Requirements in the First Year after Intraoperative Methadone for Complex Spine and Cardiac Surgery

Glenn S. Murphy, Michael J. Avram, Steven B. Greenberg, Torin D. Shear, Mark A. Deshur, David Dickerson, Sara Bilimoria, Jessica Benson, Colleen E. Maher, Gregory J. Trenk, Kevin J. Teister, Joseph W. Szokol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Methadone is a long-acting opioid that has been reported to reduce postoperative pain scores and analgesic requirements and may attenuate development of chronic postsurgical pain. The aim of this secondary analysis of two previous trials was to follow up with patients who had received a single intraoperative dose of either methadone or traditional opioids for complex spine or cardiac surgical procedures. METHODS: Preplanned analyses of long-term outcomes were conducted for spinal surgery patients randomized to receive 0.2 mg/kg methadone at the start of surgery or 2 mg hydromorphone at surgical closure, and for cardiac surgery patients randomized to receive 0.3 mg/kg methadone or 12 μg/kg fentanyl intraoperatively. A pain questionnaire assessing the weekly frequency (the primary outcome) and intensity of pain was mailed to subjects 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. Ordinal data were compared with the Mann-Whitney U test, and nominal data were compared using the chi-square test or Fisher exact probability test. The criterion for rejection of the null hypothesis was P < 0.01. RESULTS: Three months after surgery, patients randomized to receive methadone for spine procedures reported the weekly frequency of chronic pain was less (median score 0 on a 0 to 4 scale [less than once a week] vs. 3 [daily] in the hydromorphone group, P = 0.004). Patients randomized to receive methadone for cardiac surgery reported the frequency of postsurgical pain was less at 1 month (median score 0) than it was in patients randomized to receive fentanyl (median score 2 [twice per week], P = 0.004). CONCLUSIONS: Analgesic benefits of a single dose of intraoperative methadone were observed during the first 3 months after spinal surgery (but not at 6 and 12 months), and during the first month after cardiac surgery, when the intensity and frequency of pain were the greatest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-342
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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