Methadone in the management of intractable
neuropathic noncancer pain

Moulin DE, Palma D, Watling C, Schulz V.
Departments of Clinical Neurological Sciences,
Faculty of Medicine,
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario, Canada.
Can J Neurol Sci. 2005 Aug;32(3):340-3


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of methadone in the management of intractable neuropathic noncancer pain. METHODS: A case series of 50 consecutive noncancer pain patients who were seen at a tertiary care centre and treated with oral methadone for a variety of intractable neuropathic pain states. RESULTS: The mean age was 52.7 years and the mean duration of follow-up was 13.9 months. Post-discectomy nerve root fibrosis, complex regional pain syndrome, peripheral neuropathy and central spinal cord pain syndromes were the most common diagnoses. Over 90% had been treated with one or more tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants and a similar number had received other adjuvant analgesics. All patients had failed treatment with one or more conventional opioid analgesics (mean 2.8) at a mean maximal morphine dose of 384 mg (or equivalents) per day. Twelve patients had failed spinal cord stimulation. Nineteen patients (38%) did not tolerate initial methadone titration or thought their pain was worse on methadone. Five patients (10%) declared initial benefit but required repetitive dose escalation and eventually became non-responders. Twenty-six patients (52%) reported mild (4), moderate (15), marked (6) or complete (1) pain relief and continued on methadone at a mean maintenance dose of 159.8 mg/day for a mean duration of 21.3 months. Fourteen patients (28%) reported improved function on methadone relative to previous treatments. CONCLUSIONS: Methadone appears to have unique properties including N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist activity that may make it especially useful in the management of intractable neuropathic pain. This observation needs to be tested in randomized, controlled trials.
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