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Melatonin for preoperative and postoperative anxiety in adults

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BACKGROUND: Anxiety in relation to surgery is a well-known problem. Melatonin offers an alternative treatment to benzodiazepines for ameliorating this condition in the preoperative and postoperative periods.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of melatonin on preoperative and postoperative anxiety compared to placebo or benzodiazepines.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the following databases on 10 July 2020: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and Web of Science. For ongoing trials and protocols, we searched clinicaltrials.gov and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomized, placebo-controlled or standard treatment-controlled (or both) studies that evaluated the effects of preoperatively administered melatonin on preoperative or postoperative anxiety. We included adult patients of both sexes (15 to 90 years of age) undergoing any kind of surgical procedure for which it was necessary to use general, regional, or topical anaesthesia.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: One review author conducted data extraction in duplicate. Data extracted included information about study design, country of origin, number of participants and demographic details, type of surgery, type of anaesthesia, intervention and dosing regimens, preoperative anxiety outcome measures, and postoperative anxiety outcome measures.

MAIN RESULTS: We included 27 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), involving 2319 participants, that assessed melatonin for treating preoperative anxiety, postoperative anxiety, or both. Twenty-four studies compared melatonin with placebo. Eleven studies compared melatonin to a benzodiazepine (seven studies with midazolam, three studies with alprazolam, and one study with oxazepam). Other comparators in a small number of studies were gabapentin, clonidine, and pregabalin. No studies were judged to be at low risk of bias for all domains. Most studies were judged to be at unclear risk of bias overall. Eight studies were judged to be at high risk of bias in one or more domain, and thus, to be at high risk of bias overall. Melatonin versus placebo Melatonin probably results in a reduction in preoperative anxiety measured by a visual analogue scale (VAS, 0 to 100 mm) compared to placebo (mean difference (MD) -11.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) -13.80 to -9.59; 18 studies, 1264 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), based on a meta-analysis of 18 studies. Melatonin may reduce immediate postoperative anxiety measured on a 0 to 100 mm VAS compared to placebo (MD -5.04, 95% CI -9.52 to -0.55; 7 studies, 524 participants; low-certainty evidence), and may reduce delayed postoperative anxiety measured six hours after surgery using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) (MD -5.31, 95% CI -8.78 to -1.84; 2 studies; 73 participants; low-certainty evidence). Melatonin versus benzodiazepines (midazolam and alprazolam) Melatonin probably results in little or no difference in preoperative anxiety measured on a 0 to 100 mm VAS (MD 0.78, 95% CI -2.02 to 3.58; 7 studies, 409 participants; moderate-certainty evidence) and there may be little or no difference in immediate postoperative anxiety (MD -2.12, 95% CI -4.61 to 0.36; 3 studies, 176 participants; low-certainty evidence). Adverse events Fourteen studies did not report on adverse events. Six studies specifically reported that no side effects were observed, and the remaining seven studies reported cases of nausea, sleepiness, dizziness, and headache; however, no serious adverse events were reported. Eleven studies measured psychomotor and cognitive function, or both, and in general, these studies found that benzodiazepines impaired psychomotor and cognitive function more than placebo and melatonin. Fourteen studies evaluated sedation and generally found that benzodiazepine caused the highest degree of sedation, but melatonin also showed sedative properties compared to placebo. Several studies did not report on adverse events; therefore, it is not possible to conclude with certainty, from the data on adverse effects collected in this review, that melatonin is better tolerated than benzodiazepines.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: When compared with placebo, melatonin given as premedication (as tablets or sublingually) probably reduces preoperative anxiety in adults (measured 50 to 120 minutes after administration), which is potentially clinically relevant. The effect of melatonin on postoperative anxiety compared to placebo (measured in the recovery room and six hours after surgery) was also evident but was much smaller, and the clinical relevance of this finding is uncertain. There was little or no difference in anxiety when melatonin was compared with benzodiazepines. Thus, melatonin may have a similar effect to benzodiazepines in reducing preoperative and postoperative anxiety in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD009861
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Volume2020
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)CD009861
Number of pages100
ISSN1361-6137
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2020

ID: 61735957