Sensory changes and pain after abdominal hysterectomy: A comparison of anesthetic supplementation with fentanyl versus magnesium or ketamine

Oliver H.G. Wilder-Smith, Lars Arendt-Nielsen, Dorothee Gäumann, Edömer Tassonyi, Kaplan R. Rifat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Citations (Scopus)


Drugs interacting with opioid or N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors may have differing effects on post-surgical sensory changes, such as central inhibition or spinal excitation. We compared the effect of supplementing isoflurane/N2O/O2 anesthesia with an opioid agonist (fentanyl [n = 15]) or two drugs inhibiting the NMDA system differently (magnesium, ketamine [n = 15 in each group]) on sensory changes after abdominal hysterectomy. Electric sensation, pain detection, and pain tolerance thresholds were determined (preoperatively and 1, 4, 24 h, and 5 days postoperatively) in arm, thoracic, incision, and leg dermatomes together with pain scores and cumulative morphine consumption. Thresholds relative to the arm were derived to unmask segmental sensory changes hidden by generalized changes. Absolute thresholds were increased 1-24 h, returning to baseline on Day 5, without overall differences among drugs. Fentanyl thresholds were lower 1 h and higher 5 days postoperatively compared with magnesium and ketamine; thresholds were lower at 24 h for magnesium versus ketamine. Relative thresholds increased compared with baseline only with fentanyl (1-4 h); none decreased. Pain scores and morphine consumption were similar. Thus, all adjuvants suppressed spinal sensitization after surgery. Fentanyl showed the most, and magnesium the least, central sensory inhibition up to 5 days postoperatively, with different patterns of inhibition directly postsurgery versus later. Differences in sensory processing were not reflected in clinical measures. Implications: We studied the effects on postsurgical sensory processing of general anesthesia supplemented by drugs affecting opioid or N-methyl-D- aspartate receptors using sensory thresholds. Generalized central sensory inhibition, differently affected by the drugs, predominated after surgery. All drugs suppressed spinal excitation. Clinical pain measures did not reflect sensory change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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