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Efficacy and cost-effectiveness of transdermal fentanyl patches for the relief of post-operative pain in dogs after anterior cruciate ligament and pelvic limb repair


Christine Egger, Department of Small Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA. E-mail:


Objectives  To determine whether transdermal fentanyl patches provided cost-effective post-operative analgesia in dogs with pelvic limb injuries.

Study design  Prospective, randomized, blinded clinical trial.

Animals  Twenty-four dogs undergoing repair of ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments or pelvic limb fractures.

Methods  Dogs were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those receiving transdermal fentanyl patches (group F) and those receiving injectable morphine for control of post-operative pain (group M). Patients in both treatment groups were monitored for adequacy of analgesia and alterations in physiological variables. Plasma fentanyl concentrations were measured in Group F. Rescue morphine was given if a dog was deemed uncomfortable. The time of first rescue morphine, the total amount, and number of doses of morphine administered over 72 hours was quantified and compared for each group.

Results  There was no significant treatment effect on any of the parameters, except for serum cortisol concentration, which was significantly lower overall in group F (p = 0.01). Pain scores peaked at 6 hours post-extubation and were higher than baseline from 2 to 20 hours post-extubation. Cortisol concentrations were the highest at time 0 (extubation) and were significantly higher than baseline until 2 hours post-extubation. Pain scores correlated with fentanyl plasma concentrations (p = 0.0001 and p = 0.01, respectively), but the correlation was low (r = 0.26 and r = 0.16, respectively). No correlation was found between serum cortisol concentrations and pain scores in either group. Fentanyl cost and total cost for pain management were considerably higher for group F.

Conclusions  Fentanyl patches did not provide better analgesia or a reduced requirement for rescue opioid compared with intramuscular morphine.

Clinical relevance  When considering overall costs to the client for comparable analgesic intervention, fentanyl patches increased rather than decreased cost during the first 24 hours post-operatively.