Pholcodine is an opioid anti-tussive (ie. cough suppressant). It is a common component of over-the-counter cough medications. However it has a special significant to anesthesiologists in relation to anaphylaxis risk, particularly related to neuromuscular agents.
Florvaag et al's 2009 review covers this issue very comprehensively. Earlier 2006 research from Florvaag et al attempting to explain some of the regional variability in anaphylaxis rates showed that exposure to pholcodine causes an 60-105 times increase in IgE levels!
Countries where pholcodine use is common (eg Norway) seem to have experienced higher levels of anaphylaxis to neuromuscular blocking agents than countries where it is not common (eg Sweden). In fact, in Norway rocuronium anaphylaxis was such a problem that its use was restricted to modified rapid sequence inductions. A pholcodine containing cough syrup has been withdrawn from the market in Norway because of this (and levels of sensitisation seem to be dropping although it is still too early to draw conclusions). It will be interesting to see if there are other compounds that have a similar effect on IgE sensitisation and whether other countries will consider withdrawing pholcodine products.
In addition to the two articles from Florvaag that specifically look at Pholcodine and it's effects, there is also an interesting review looking at recent insights into anaphylaxis in the anaesthetic setting from Dewachter and team.summary
...and 1 more note
The potential for dexamethasone and other glucocorticoids to prolong peripheral nerve blocks was first noted almost 20 years ago.
While the effect has been observed with several different blocks (upper & lower extremity, and even TAP blocks), the clinical significance varies and several questions still remain:
Is the effect exclusive to perineural dexamethasone? Several studies have observed similar effects for both IV and perineural dexamethasone (though less profound than other papers).
Is the effect safe? This is perhaps the most concerning, as there are suggestions that the effect may represent an enhancement of the well-known neurotoxicity of local anaesthetic agents.
There is some evidence supporting the benefit of perioperative intravenous lignocaine/lidocaine infusion in both laparoscopic and open abdominal surgery.
The strongest evidence supports both improved analgesia and reduction in nausea, with weaker evidence suggesting faster improvement in GIT function and earlier discharge from hospital.
Safety data is reassuring but far from conclusive due to the small size of most studies.summary
Although there remains much conflicting evidence, largely of a low-quality observational nature, the highest quality evidence to date refutes assertions that epidural fentanyl reduces breastfeeding rates.
Notably Lee et al.’s 2017 RCT of over 300 women showed no effect of epidural fentanyl up to 2 mcg/mL and successful maternal breastfeeding up to 6 weeks.summary