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Association of opioid exposure before surgery with opioid consumption after surgery


Objective To determine the effect of prescription opioid use in the year before surgery on opioid consumption after surgery.

Background Recently developed postoperative opioid prescribing guidelines rely on data from opioid-naïve patients. However, opioid use in the USA is common, and the impact of prior opioid exposure on the consumption of opioids after surgery is unclear.

Methods Population-based cohort study of 26,001 adults 18 years of age and older who underwent one of nine elective general or gynecologic surgical procedures between January 1, 2017 and October 31, 2019, with prospectively collected patient-reported data from the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative (MSQC) linked to state prescription drug monitoring program at 70 MSQC-participating hospitals on 30-day patient-reported opioid consumption in oral morphine equivalents (OME) (primary outcome).

Results Compared with opioid-naïve participants, opioid-exposed participants (26% of sample) consumed more prescription opioids after surgery (adjusted OME difference 12, 95% CI 10 to 14). Greater opioid exposure was associated with higher postoperative consumption in a dose-dependent manner, with chronic users reporting the greatest consumption (additional OMEs 32, 95% CI 21 to 42). However, for eight of nine procedures, 90% of opioid-exposed participants consumed ≤150 OMEs. Among those receiving perioperative prescriptions, opioid-exposed participants had higher likelihood of refill (adjusted OR 4.7, 95% CI 4.4 to 5.1), number of refills (adjusted incidence rate ratio 4.0, 95% CI 3.7 to 4.3), and average refill amount (adjusted OME difference 333, 95% CI 292 to 374)).

Conclusions Preoperative opioid use is associated with small increases in patient-reported opioid consumption after surgery for most patients, though greater differences exist for patients with chronic use. For most patients with preoperative opioid exposure, existing guidelines may meet their postoperative needs. However, guidelines may need tailoring for patients with chronic use, and providers should anticipate a higher likelihood of postoperative refills for all opioid-exposed patients.

  • analgesics, opioid
  • pain, postoperative
  • outcome assessment, health care
  • acute pain

Data availability statement

No data are available.

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