The study also broke out the data by presurgery opioid usage and surgery service. Of patients having spine neurosurgery, 55.1% were already taking opioids, and among those having orthopedic spine surgery, 65.1% were taking opioids. General surgery patients were not among those mostly likely to be using opioids (gastrointestinal surgery, 19.3% and endocrine surgery 14.3%). “Certain surgical services may be more likely to encounter patients with high comorbidities for opioid use, and more targeted opioid education strategies aimed at those services may help to mitigate risk in the postoperative period,” the authors wrote.
“All surgeons should take a preop pain history. They should ask about current pain and previous pain experiences. They should also ask about a history of substance use disorder. This should lead into a discussion of the pain expectations from the procedure. Patients should expect to be in pain, that is normal. Pain-free surgery is rare. If a patient has a complex pain history or takes chronic opioids, the surgeon should consider referring them to anesthesia for formal preop pain management planning and potentially weaning of opioid dose prior to elective surgery,” noted Dr. Englesbe, the Cyrenus G. Darling Sr., MD and Cyrenus G Darling Jr., MD Professor of Surgery, and faculty at the Center for Healthcare Outcomes & Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Surgeons are likely to see patients with a past history of opioid dependence or who are recovering from substance abuse. “Every effort should be made to avoid opioids in these patients. We have developed a Pain Optimization Pathway which facilitates no postoperative opioids for these and other patients. These patients are at high risk to relapse and surgeons must know who these patients are so they can provide optimal care,” Dr. Englesbe added.The limitations of this study as reported by the authors include the single-center design, the nondiverse racial makeup of the sample, and the difficulty of ascertaining the dosing and duration of opioid use, both prescription and illegal.
The investigators reported no disclosures relevant to this study. This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, the American College of Surgeons, and other noncommercial sources.
SOURCE: Hilliard PE et al. JAMA Surg. 2018 Jul 11. .