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Nicotine, Chili Peppers Offer Post-Surgery Pain Relief
Date:10/15/2007

Findings could bring new treatment options for patients, researchers say

MONDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery patients may one day find nicotine patches or hot pepper-based chemicals on their pain prescription pad, researchers say.

Nicotine patches and the hot pepper-derivative capsaicin both provided pain relief following surgery, according to two studies presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists' annual meeting, which concludes Wednesday.

Neither pain-management approach had serious side effects for the people in the studies, although those using the nicotine patches reported increased nausea. But, perhaps not surprisingly, other studies have shown that capsaicin often causes a burning sensation at the site of its application.

In the first study, researchers at Duke University gave 90 non-smoking men who were undergoing prostate removal surgeries a 7-milligram nicotine patch or an identical nicotine-free patch before anesthesia and surgery. After surgery, each patient was able to control their pain by adjusting a morphine drip.

The men who received the nicotine patch chose to self-administer less morphine during the 24 hours following surgery than the men whose patches did not contain nicotine. Both groups rated their pain at similar levels, the study found.

The researchers noted that other than the reported nausea, nicotine apparently relieved pain without the narcotic side effects associated with morphine.

"The issue of nausea could be addressed by using more aggressive prophylaxis against postoperative nausea and vomiting. For instance, in this study we used prophylaxis with one agent. It is known that using a combination of [anti-nausea drugs] is more effective than using one agent," said lead author Dr. Ashraf Habib, associate professor of anesthesiology and director of quality improvement at Duke University Medical Center.

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