Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 33–42 | Cite as

Subcutaneous or intravenous opioid administration by patient-controlled analgesia in cancer pain: a systematic literature review

  • Lisa Nijland
  • Pia Schmidt
  • Michael Frosch
  • Julia Wager
  • Bettina Hübner-Möhler
  • Ross Drake
  • Boris ZernikowEmail author
Review Article



Opioids administered by various routes are a mainstay of tumour-related pain management. Subcutaneous or intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) with opioids is an appropriate and safe form of treatment for postoperative pain but studies on this form of administration are sparse in the setting of cancer pain despite widespread use.


To evaluate the published studies on opioids administered by subcutaneous and intravenous patient-controlled analgesia for patients with cancer pain.


Articles were identified from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 7, 2016), PubMed (Medline; 1975 to 2016) and EMBASE (1974 to 2016). Additional reports were identified from the reference lists of retrieved papers. Studies based on original data with a focus on intravenous or subcutaneous PCA administration of opioids in patients suffering from cancer-related pain were selected. The language was restricted to Dutch, English or German. Predefined information was extracted depending on the topic.


Fifty studies published since 1980 met the inclusion criteria. A wide range of study designs, study quality and research objectives were observed. The studies indicated use of standard or by proxy PCA in the inpatient and outpatient setting were safe and useful while significant adverse effects were rarely observed.


This systematic review of the current evidence suggests PCA can be appropriately used in a wide range of clinical situations.


Patient-controlled analgesia Cancer Pain Opioid Review 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

520_2018_4368_MOESM1_ESM.docx (59 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 59.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Nijland
    • 1
  • Pia Schmidt
    • 1
  • Michael Frosch
    • 1
  • Julia Wager
    • 1
  • Bettina Hübner-Möhler
    • 1
  • Ross Drake
    • 2
  • Boris Zernikow
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Children’s Pain Therapy and Paediatric Palliative Care, Faculty of Health, School of MedicineWitten/Herdecke UniversityDattelnGermany
  2. 2.Starship Children’s HealthAucklandNew Zealand

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