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Systematic review of pharmacological therapies for the management of ischaemic pain in patients with non-reconstructable critical limb ischaemia
  1. Áine Ní Laoire1 and
  2. Fliss E M Murtagh2
  1. 1 Milford Care Centre, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland
  2. 2 Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, King’s College London, Cicely Saunders Institute, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Fliss E M Murtagh, Department of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, King’s College London, Cicely Saunders Institute, Brixton, London SE5 9RJ, UK; fliss.murtagh{at}


Background Critical limb ischaemia (CLI) is a severe manifestation of peripheral arterial disease, characterised by chronic ischaemic rest pain, ulcers or gangrene. Management of ischaemic pain is challenging in patients with no options for revascularisation and optimal pharmacological therapies have not been established.

Objectives To identify and evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacological therapies to treat ischaemic pain secondary to non-reconstructable CLI.

Methods This systematic review was reported in accordance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guideline. Comprehensive searches of three electronic databases, a PubMed-related articles link search, grey literature search and hand-searches of the bibliographies of relevant papers and textbooks were performed. Studies recruiting adult patients with CLI of any aetiology were eligible for inclusion. Surgical and revascularisation procedures, and all invasive interventions were excluded.

Results Of 792 studies, six met full inclusion criteria. These studies researched the use of intravenous lidocaine, intravenous ketamine, oral gabapentin and the combination of transdermal buprenorphine and epidural morphine/ropivacaine infusion. All studies showed an improvement in severity of ischaemic pain in CLI but with varying side effect profiles and quality. The extracted studies showed substantial heterogeneity and therefore a meta-analysis was not performed.

Conclusion The pharmacological management of pain secondary to non-reconstructable CLI is a challenging review topic. No recommendations of pharmacological agents can be made following this review but a number of novel approaches to manage pain in this cohort have shown positive results and require further investigation.

  • pain
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • chronic conditions

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  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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