The Unsaid Dangers of NSAIDs

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Q) Many total joint replacements and other orthopedic procedures are performed at the surgical center where I work. To decrease the use of narcotics, the anesthesiology department often uses IV push ketorolac postop. Our nephrology colleagues in the community are unhappy about this—but we think they’re overreacting, since these patients are often generally healthy. Is there any data on the use of ketorolac and orthopedic surgery?

All medications have associated risks. For example, while therapeutic dosages for a limited time are considered safe and effective, prolonged use of any NSAID can increase the risk for acute kidney injury (AKI) or chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression. We tend to associate these issues only with patients who are at higher risk for CKD: those who are older or who have diabetes or hypertension.

Thus, it was shocking to read a clinical report on four previously healthy young adults who were admitted for AKI three to four days after postoperative administration of ketorolac. None of these patients had risk factors that would predispose them to kidney disease. All had complained of gastrointestinal symptoms along with mild dehydration and flank pain; one young man even required a kidney biopsy and dialysis. All four did eventually recover kidney function. 1

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