Nonopioid perioperative analgesia in head and neck cancer surgery: A systematic review

Beatrice C. Go, Cammille C. Go, Kevin Chorath, Alvaro Moreira, Karthik Rajasekaran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Management of postoperative pain after head and neck cancer surgery is a complex issue, requiring a careful balance of analgesic properties and side effects. The objective of this review is to discuss the efficacy and safety of multimodal analgesia (MMA) for these patients. Methods: Pubmed, Cochrane, Embase, Scopus, and were systematically searched for all comparative studies of patients receiving MMA (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, anticonvulsants, local anesthetics, and corticosteroids) for head and neck cancer surgeries. The primary outcome was additional postoperative opioid usage, and secondary outcomes included subjective pain scores, complications, adverse effects, and 30-day outcomes. Results: A total of five studies representing 592 patients (MMA, n = 275; non-MMA, n = 317) met inclusion criteria. The most commonly used agents were gabapentin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen (n = 221), NSAIDs (n = 221), followed by corticosteroids (n = 35), dextromethorphan (n = 40), and local nerve block (n = 19). Four studies described a significant decrease in overall postoperative narcotic usage with two studies reporting a significant decrease in hospital time. Subjective pain scores widely varied with two studies reporting reduced pain at postoperative day 3. There were no differences in surgical outcomes, medical complications, adverse effects, or 30-day mortality and readmission rates. Conclusion: MMA is an increasingly popular strategy that may reduce dependence on opioids for the treatment of postoperative pain. A variety of regimens and protocols are available for providers to utilize in the appropriate head and neck cancer patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-117
Number of pages11
JournalWorld Journal of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • analgesia
  • head and neck neoplasm
  • opioids
  • pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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