Tramadol in traumatic brain injury: Should we continue to use it?

Saeed Mahmood, Hassan Al-Thani, Ayman El-Menyar, Mushrek Alani, Ammar Al-Hassani, Saji Mathrdikkal, Ruben Peralta, Rifat Latifi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Tramadol is commonly used to treat moderate to moderately-severe pain in adults. We aimed to analyze the clinical relevance of tramadol use during weaning and extubation in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Material and Methods: A retrospective observational study was conducted and included all the intubated TBI patients at the level I trauma center between 2011 and 2012. Data included patient's demographics, mechanism of injury (MOI), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), injury severity score, length of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) stay length of stay (LOS), agitation scale, analgesics, failure of extubation and tracheostomy. Patients were divided into two groups based on whether they received tramadol (Group 1) or not (Group 2) during ventilatory weaning. Chi-square and Student's t-tests were used for categorical and continuous variables; respectively. Logistic regression analysis was performed for predictors of agitation in ICU. Results: The study included 393 TBI patients; the majority (96%) was males with a mean age of 33.6 ± 14 years. The most common MOI were motor vehicle crash (39%), fall (29%) and pedestrian (17%). The associated injuries were mainly chest (35%) and abdominal (16%) trauma. Tramadol was administered in 51.4% of TBI patients. Tracheostomy was performed in 12.4% cases. Agitation was observed in 34.2% cases. Group 1 patients had significantly lower age (31.6 ± 12.4 vs. 35.7 ± 15.6; P = 0.005) and head AIS (3.5 ± 0.8 vs. 3.9 ± 0.9; P = 0.001) compared to Group 2. The incidence of agitation, ICU and hospital LOS were higher in Group 1. Failure of extubation and tracheostomy were reported more frequently in Group 1 (P = 0.001). On multivariate analysis, tramadol use was an independent predictor for agitation (adjusted odds ratio 21; P = 0.001), followed by low GCS. Conclusion: Patients with TBI who received tramadol are more likely to develop agitation, undergo tracheostomy and to have longer hospital LOS. Therefore, an extensive risk-benefit assessment would help to attain maximum efficacy of the drug in TBI patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-348
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Agitation
  • brain injury
  • extubation
  • tramadol
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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