Although the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac is commonly used to treat acute pain in children, it is not licensed for this purpose in all age groups. A new review, however, suggests that perhaps it should be.

Dr. Imogen Savage, from the University of London, and colleagues searched the literature for studies examining diclofenac as a treatment for acute pain in children 18 years old or younger. They found seven studies looking at the efficacy of the drug and 79 looking at its safety.

In the efficacy analysis, the focus was typically on post-surgery pain. In this regard, use of diclofenac reduced the need for "rescue" painkillers by 40 percent relative to placebo or no treatment.

As for safety, Savage and colleagues found that diclofenac-treated children were 40 percent less likely to suffer nausea, vomiting, or both compared with children treated with any non-NSAID agent.

Fewer than 0.24 percent of children experienced a serious side effect after taking diclofenac, and none had bleeding episodes requiring surgery.

Diclofenac, Savage told Reuters Health, is "a useful drug in pediatrics, and one which is already used quite widely in the UK, although we probably need more 'child friendly' formulations."

The findings appear in the Cochrane Library, which is published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.