Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the oncological surgical population: beneficial or harmful? A systematic review of the literature

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British journal of anaesthesia


Background: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective analgesic drugs. Recent studies have indicated a potential beneficial effect on long-term survival outcomes after cancer surgery but a negative impact on anastomotic leaks. The objective of this study was to objectively assess the implications of the perioperative NSAIDs use on anastomotic leaks and cancer recurrence.

Methods: We searched PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane Library for publications up to mid-January 2017. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies in adults undergoing cancer surgery were included for quality assessment. We excluded animal studies, in vitro experiments and case reports. The selected sudies were graded using the Jadad score or Newcastle-Ottawa scale for RCTs and observational retrospective studies, respectively.

Results: The systematic review identified 25 trials that explored the impact of NSAIDs on anastomotic leaks and 16 trials that assessed the association between perioperative NSAIDs and cancer recurrence. Meta-analyses were not performed because of high heterogeneity and low quality of the included studies.

Conclusions: The literature is not conclusive on whether the use of NSAIDs is associated with anastomotic leaks after gastrointestinal cancer surgery. Also, the current evidence is equivocal regarding the effects of short-term NSAIDs on cancer recurrence after major cancer surgery. Three RCTs are being conducted to assess the impact of NSAIDs on cancer recurrence. There are no registered RCTs that are testing the hypothesis of whether the perioperative use of NSAIDs increases the rate of anastomotic leaks.

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