Dilaudid for Pain Relief After Surgery

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Dilaudid (hydromorphone HCl) is a narcotic analgesic. This means that Dilaudid is chemically similar to morphine and provides pain relief. This medication is only available by prescription and is typically used in the hospital for pain after a procedure or injury.

A doctor talking to his young patient after surgery
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Dilaudid is made using the poppy plant and is also referred to as an opioid, as are all medications derived from poppies.

Dilaudid is also sold under the names Palladone, Palladone SR, Dihydromorphinone, and Hydromorphone Hydrochloride.


IV Dilaudid is used to treat pain after surgery, as well as other types of pain, often while the patient remains in the hospital.

Dilaudid is not typically used for chronic pain, but for short-term relief of severe pain. It is a very powerful pain medication and may be too strong for mild to moderate pain relief.

In pill form, Dilaudid may be used for cancer pain or to treat severe pain in an individual who is no longer hospitalized. It is rare for IV pain medication to be given outside of the hospital, so the oral form is traditionally used after the inpatient stay is completed.

Most commonly, Dilaudid is stopped when the hospital stay is over and a less potent medication, such as Norco (hydrocodone) or Percocet (oxycodone) is given.

How Is Dilaudid Given?

In a hospital setting, Dilaudid may be given via IV, as an epidural, or in a pill form. IV Dilaudid can be given continuously as an IV drip, or it can be given one dose at a time through the IV line (as a bolus).

In some cases, Dilaudid is used in a patient-controlled analgesia pump (PCA pump)—a pain pump that delivers predetermined doses of the medication when a button is pressed by the patient.

Dilaudid is typically prescribed in pill form for use after discharge from the hospital, but it is available as a liquid if necessary.

Side Effects

One of the most common side effects of Dilaudid and other narcotics is constipation. After surgery, constipation can be a major issue, so it is important to drink ample fluids and try to eat well after surgery, making sure to include foods high in fiber.

Similar to morphine, Dilaudid can cause sleepiness and mental fog. It may make you feel “dopey” or “slow.”

Dizziness can also result. For these reasons, driving and other activities that could be harmful if you are sleepy while doing them should only be done with caution and only after you know how you react to your dose of medication.


  • Dilaudid should not be used by breastfeeding women as it can be found in breast milk.
  • Dilaudid has not been studied for use by pregnant women.
  • The elderly have been found to be more sensitive to Dilaudid and should take care until an appropriate dose is determined.
  • Too much Dilaudid (overdose) can depress the respiratory system and cause breathing to stop completely.
  • This drug should not be taken before driving or using machinery.
  • Combining Dilaudid with other medications that cause sleepiness can be dangerous.

Dilaudid Addiction

Dilaudid does have addictive properties and should be treated with caution if used for longer than a few weeks.

When used properly, and according to instructions, Dilaudid addiction is typically not an issue after surgery, as it is only used during the early portion of the recovery period.

Illicit use, meaning using Dilaudid when there is no medically necessary reason for doing so or without a prescription, can lead to addiction and symptoms of withdrawal when the drug is stopped.

A Word From Verywell

Dilaudid is an extremely useful medication when used appropriately. For patients who are in extreme pain after an injury or procedure, IV Dilaudid may provide the relief they need. That said, Dilaudid has the potential to be abused and can be addictive when used inappropriately.

As with any opioid, use only as much as you need and stop completely when you no longer need the medication in order to avoid any long-term issues with dependence.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration Package Insert. Diluadid.

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN
Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She has experience in primary care and hospital medicine.