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Patients Who Underwent Surgery More Likely to Become Chronic Opioid User, Study Reveals

Jul 15, 2016 03:20 AM EDT
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A new study revealed that patients who underwent 11 of the most common surgeries were at an increased risk of becoming chronic users of opioid painkillers.

These surgeries include total knee arthroplasty [TKA], total hip arthroplasty, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, open cholecystectomy, laparoscopic appendectomy, open appendectomy, cesarean delivery, functional endoscopic sinus surgery [FESS], cataract surgery, transurethral prostate resection [TURP], and simple mastectomy

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests a 0.5 percent overall increased risk of developing chronic opioid use in patients who underwent surgery. However, the researchers noted that the slight increase is not a reason to shy away from surgeries. Instead, researchers wanted their findings to be a reminder for surgeons and physicians to monitor their patient's opioid use after a surgery.

"The message isn't that you shouldn't have surgery," said Eric Sun, MD, PhD, an instructor in anesthesiology at Stanford and lead author of the study, in a statement. "Rather, there are things that anesthesiologists can do to reduce the risk by finding other ways of controlling the pain and using replacements for opioids when possible."

For the study, the researchers analyze health claims from 641,941 privately insured patients between the ages of 18 and 64 who had not filled an opioid prescription in the year prior to surgery and compared them with nearly 18 million nonsurgical patients who also did not receive opioid prescriptions for at least a year.

The researchers then discovered that patients who underwent knee surgeries were approximately five times more likely to end up with chronic opiod use compared to the nonsurgical patients, while patients who had gall bladder surgery were three and a half times at more risk of developing chronic opioid use than the control group.

Furthermore, researchers found out that women who underwent cesarean section were 28 percent more likely to end up with chronic use of opioid than the control group. Also, all 11 types of surgeries included in the study were linked to and increase risk of opioid use.

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