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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine

Volume 42, Issue 6, November 2017, Pages 767-777.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1097/AAP.0000000000000671. Copyright © Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


Opioid-induced constipation has a negative impact on quality of life for patients with chronic pain and can affect more than a third of patients. A related but separate entity is postoperative ileus, which is an abnormal pattern of gastrointestinal motility after surgery. Nonselective μ-opioid receptor antagonists reverse constipation and opioid-induced ileus but cross the blood-brain barrier and may reverse analgesia. Peripherally acting μ-opioid receptor antagonists target the μ-opioid receptor without reversing analgesia. Three such agents are US Food and Drug Administration approved. We reviewed the literature for randomized controlled trials that studied the efficacy of alvimopan, methylnaltrexone, and naloxegol in treating either opioid-induced constipation or postoperative ileus. Peripherally acting μ-opioid receptor antagonists may be effective in treating both opioid-induced bowel dysfunction and postoperative ileus, but definitive conclusions are not possible because of study inconsistency and the relatively low quality of evidence. Comparisons of agents are difficult because of heterogeneous end points and no head-to-head studies.

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