Ketorolac use and postoperative complications in gastrointestinal surgery

Meera Kotagal, Timo W. Hakkarainen, Vlad V. Simianu, Sara J. Beck, Rafael Alfonso-Cristancho, David R. Flum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: To study the association between ketorolac use and postoperative complications. Background: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may impair wound healing and increase the risk of anastomotic leak in colon surgery. Studies to date have been limited by sample size, inability to identify confounding, and a focus limited to colon surgery. Methods: Ketorolac use, reinterventions, emergency department (ED) visits, and readmissions in adults (≥18 years) undergoing gastrointestinal (GI) operations was assessed in a nationwide cohort using the MarketScan Database (2008-2012). Results: Among 398,752 patients (median age 52, 45% male), 55% underwent colorectal surgery, whereas 45% had noncolorectal GI surgery. Five percent of patients received ketorolac. Adjusting for demographic characteristics, comorbidities, surgery type/indication, and preoperative medications, patients receiving ketorolac had higher odds of reintervention (odds ratio [OR] 1.20, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.08-1.32), ED visit (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.37-1.51), and readmission within 30 days (OR 1.11, 95% CI 1.05-1.18) compared to those who did not receive ketorolac. Ketorolac use was associated with readmissions related to anastomotic complications (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06-1.36). Evaluating only admissions with ≤3 days duration to exclude cases where ketorolac might have been used for complication-related pain relief, the odds of complications associated with ketorolac were even greater. Conclusions: Use of intravenous ketorolac was associated with greater odds of reintervention, ED visit, and readmission in both colorectal and noncolorectal GI surgery. Given this confirmatory evaluation of other reports of a negative association and the large size of this cohort, clinicians should exercise caution when using ketorolac in patients undergoing GI surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-75
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Adverse events
  • Gastrointestinal surgery
  • Ketorolac
  • Medication use
  • Postoperative complications

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