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Rongbo Lin, Sunzhi Lin, Shuitu Feng, Qingyi Wu, Jianqian Fu, Fang Wang, Hui Li, Xiaofeng Li, Gaowang Zhang, Yongzhi Yao, Min Xin, Tianyang Lai, Xia Lv, Yigui Chen, Shangwang Yang, Yubiao Lin, Lixia Hong, Zhenyu Cai, Jianfeng Wang, Gen Lin, Shaowei Lin, Shen Zhao, Jinfeng Zhu, and Cheng Huang

Background: Opioid titration is necessary to achieve rapid, safe pain relief. Medication can be administered via patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) or by a healthcare provider (non-PCA). We evaluated the efficacy of intravenous PCA versus non-PCA hydromorphone titration for severe cancer pain (≥7 at rest on the 11-point numeric rating scale [NRS]). Patients and Methods: Patients with severe cancer pain were randomized 1:1 to PCA or non-PCA titration, stratified by opioid-tolerant or opioid-naïve status. The PCA pump was set to no continuous dose, with a hydromorphone bolus dose 10% to 20% of the total previous 24-hour equianalgesic (for opioid-tolerant patients) or 0.5 mg (for opioid-naïve patients). For the non-PCA group, the initial hydromorphone bolus dose was identical to that in the PCA group, with the subsequent dose increased by 50% to 100% (for NRS unchanged or increased) or repeated at the current dose (for NRS 4–6). Hydromorphone delivery was initiated every 15 minutes (for NRS ≥4) or as needed (for NRS ≤3). The primary endpoint was time to successful titration (TST; time from first hydromorphone dose to first occurrence of NRS ≤3 in 2 consecutive 15-minute intervals). Results: Among 214 patients (PCA, n=106; non-PCA, n=108), median TSTs (95% CI) were 0.50 hours (0.25–0.50) and 0.79 hours (0.50–1.42) for the PCA and non-PCA groups, respectively (hazard ratio [HR], 1.64; 95% CI, 1.23–2.17; P=.001). TSTs in opioid-tolerant patients were 0.50 hours (0.25–0.75) and 1.00 hours (0.50–2.00) for the PCA and non-PCA groups, respectively (HR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.32–2.78; P=.003); in opioid-naive patients, TST was not significantly different for the PCA versus non-PCA groups (HR, 1.35; 95% CI, 0.88–2.04; P=.162). Pain score (median NRS; interquartile range) over 24 hours was significantly lower in the PCA group (2.80; 2.15–3.22) than in the non-PCA group (3.00; 2.47–3.53; P=.020). PCA administration produces significantly higher patient satisfaction with pain control than non-PCA administration (P<.001). Conclusions: Intravenous hydromorphone titration for severe cancer pain was achieved more effectively with PCA than with non-PCA administration.