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Buprenorphine: a reappraisal of its antinociceptive effects and therapeutic use in alleviating post-operative pain in animals

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Johnny RoughanORCiD, Emeritus Professor Paul FlecknellORCiD


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Buprenorphine has been widely used for post-operative analgesia in laboratory animals. Clinical efficacy has been demonstrated in both subjective and objective pain assessment schemes, however doubts have been expressed as to its value as an analgesic. Initial dosage recommendations were based on analgesiometric studies. It is unlikely, however, that the pain elicited in analgesiometric tests is comparable to post-operative pain. This has resulted in recommendations of excessive dose rates and inappropriate clinical indications. Studies involving tests of the efficacy of buprenorphine for alleviating behavioural or other signs of tonic (post-surgical) pain provide a more appropriate estimation of the analgesic capabilities of the drug. However, buprenorphine also has major effects upon the behaviour of normal (unoperated) animals, and this makes assessments of efficacy difficult with some of the systems used for scoring clinical pain. Nevertheless, our most recent studies of the effects of buprenorphine upon pain-related behaviours in rats support the view that it is an effective post-operative analgesic. This short review critically reappraises the role of buprenorphine in this capacity and discusses a rational approach to the relief of pain in laboratory animals. We conclude that buprenorphine remains a valuable agent for pain relief in a wide range of animal species when used in an appropriate manner.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roughan JV; Flecknell PA

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Laboratory Animals

Year: 2002

Volume: 36

Issue: 3

Pages: 322-343

ISSN (print): 0023-6772

ISSN (electronic): 1758-1117


DOI: 10.1258/002367702320162423