We included 13 studies, involving 920 randomised participants. There was considerable heterogeneity among study designs, including the comparator arms (placebo, opioid, another NSAID, or a different regimen of ketorolac), dosing regimens (routes and timing of administration, single versus multiple dose), outcome assessment methods, and types of surgery. Mean study population ages ranged from 356 days to 13.9 years. The majority of studies chose a dose of either 0.5 mg/kg (as a single or multiple dose regimen) or 1 mg/kg (single dose with 0.5 mg/kg for any subsequent doses). One study administered interventions intraoperatively; the remainder administered interventions postoperatively, often after the participant reported moderate to severe pain.
There were insufficient data to perform meta-analysis for either of our primary outcomes: participants with at least 50% pain relief; or mean postoperative pain intensity. Four studies individually reported statistically significant reductions in pain intensity when comparing ketorolac with placebo, but the studies were small and had various risks of bias, primarily due to incomplete outcome data and small sample sizes.
We found limited data available for the secondary outcomes of participants requiring rescue medication and opioid consumption. For the former, we saw no clear difference between ketorolac and placebo; 74 of 135 (55%) participants receiving ketorolac required rescue analgesia in the post-anaesthesia care unit (PACU) versus 81 of 127 (64%) receiving placebo (relative risk (RR) 0.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.71 to 1.00, P = 0.05; 4 studies, 262 participants). For opioid consumption in the PACU, we saw no clear difference between ketorolac and placebo (P = 0.61). For the time period zero to four hours after administration of the interventions, participants receiving ketorolac received 1.58 mg less intravenous morphine equivalents than those receiving placebo (95% CI -2.58 mg to -0.57 mg, P = 0.002; 2 studies, 129 participants). However, we are uncertain whether ketorolac has an important effect on opioid consumption, as the data were sparse and the results were inconsistent. Only one study reported data for opioid consumption when comparing ketorolac with an opioid. There were no clear differences between the ketorolac and opioid group at any time point. There were no data assessing this outcome for the comparison of ketorolac with another NSAID.
There were insufficient data to allow us to analyze overall adverse event or serious adverse event rates. Although the majority of serious adverse events reported in those receiving ketorolac involved bleeding, the number of events was too low to conclude that bleeding risk was increased in those receiving ketorolac perioperatively. There was not a statistically significant increase in event rates for any specific adverse event, either in pooled analysis or in single studies, when comparing ketorolac and placebo. When comparing ketorolac with opioids or other NSAIDs, there were too few data to make any conclusions regarding event rates. Lastly, withdrawals due to adverse events were vary rare in all groups, reflecting the acute nature of such studies.
We assessed the quality of evidence for all outcomes for each comparison (placebo or active) as very low, due to issues with risk of bias in individual studies, imprecision, heterogeneity between studies, and low overall numbers of participants and events.