Perioperative management of drug therapy, clinical considerations.
The objectives for the provision of a safe anaesthetic include rendering the patient analgesic for the procedure (amnesic if appropriate), with control of adverse haemodynamic perturbations, and muscle relaxation to facilitate surgery as necessary. This must be done with an understanding of the patient's pre-existing pathophysiology and drug therapy. This article focuses on the management of medications in the perioperative period from the practitioner's perspective. Areas of drug therapy examined include drugs affecting the cardiovascular, central nervous, haemostatic and endocrine systems. Review of the limited data available suggests that the safest course of action for the preoperative management of the vast majority of drug therapy is to continue such therapy until the time of surgery, particularly agents in which a withdrawal syndrome has been described, e.g. beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents, alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonists. Exceptions to this generalisation might include discontinuing ACE inhibitors prior to surgery as these agents may be associated with adverse haemodynamic changes during surgery. The management of drug therapy for patients receiving monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) continues to be challenging due to the potential for drug interactions, e.g. severe hypertension with use of indirect-acting vasopressors and excitatory/depressive reactions with administration of pethidine (meperidine) or dextromethorphan. However, recent clinical experience has demonstrated the relative safety of continuing MAOIs prior to surgery by use of specific 'MAOI safe' anaesthetic techniques and/or substitution of short-acting MAOIs which do not irreversibly inhibit the enzyme. For drugs affecting the coagulation system, such as heparin and warfarin, prudence dictates discontinuing these agents whenever possible prior to surgery where it can be anticipated that haemorrhage will occur, e.g. vascular surgery, or where the consequences of even minor bleeding could be catastrophic, e.g. eye surgery. Controversy exists as to the management of patients receiving prophylactic low dose heparin for deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis or in whom intraoperative or postoperative anticoagulation is planned, e.g. aortic surgery, and in whom a regional anaesthetic technique is planned as part of the anaesthetic management. The data available suggest that, where prophylactic use of heparin is concerned, and provided the administration of the last dose of heparin and the institution of a regional anaesthetic nerve block does not occur at the same time, use of regional anaesthesia is not contraindicated in such circumstances. Where therapeutic anticoagulation is planned as part of the surgical management, there is a very small risk of the development of epidural or spinal haematoma when major central conduction nerve block is employed for anaesthesia, with resultant spinal cord compression and paralysis. These precautions do not apply to patients receiving aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents as there is a large clinical and published experience of the safety of regional anaesthesia in this group of patients. Patients treated with fibrinolytic agents are at increased risk for bleeding should surgery be required. For these patients, pre- and intraoperative use of agents with antifibrinolytic activity, e.g. aprotinin, has been demonstrated in case reports to be beneficial. Finally, recommendations for the management of patients who have received or are receiving glucocorticoids are given. Throughout the review, areas of uncertainty where further research is required are identified.
Smith, MS; Muir, H; Hall, R
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Pubmed Central ID
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)