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Background: We have reviewed the analgesic efficacy of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors compared with traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), different COX-2 inhibitors, and placebo in post-operative pain. Methods: Randomized controlled trials were evaluated. Outcome measures were pain scores and demand for supplementary analgesia 0–24 h after surgery. Results: Thirty-three studies were included in which four COX-2 inhibitors, rofecoxib 50 mg, celecoxib 200 and 400 mg, parecoxib 20, 40 and 80 mg, and valdecoxib 10, 20, 40, 80 mg were evaluated. Ten of these studies included 18 comparisons of rofecoxib, celecoxib, or parecoxib with NSAIDs. Rofecoxib 50 mg and parecoxib 40 mg provided analgesic efficacy comparable to that of the NSAIDs in the comparisons, and with a longer duration of action after dental surgery but possibly not after major procedures. Celecoxib 200 mg and parecoxib 20 mg provided less effective pain relief. Four studies included five comparisons of rofecoxib 50 mg with celecoxib 200 and 400 mg. Rofecoxib 50 mg provided superior analgesic effect compared with celecoxib 200 mg. Data on celecoxib 400 mg were too sparse for firm conclusions. Thirty-three studies included 62 comparisons of the four COX-2 inhibitors with placebo and the COX-2 inhibitors significantly decreased post-operative pain. Conclusion: Rofecoxib 50 mg and parecoxib 40 mg have an equipotent analgesic efficacy relative to traditional NSAIDs in post-operative pain after minor and major surgical procedures, and after dental surgery these COX-2 inhibitors have a longer duration of action. Besides, rofecoxib 50 mg provides superior analgesic effect compared with celecoxib 200 mg.