Duration of preoperative pain linked to chronic opioid use after adult spinal deformity surgery

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Brian Neuman

For patients who underwent adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery, preoperative opioid use and pain duration of four or more years were independently associated with higher odds of chronic post-surgery opioid use. This is according to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, USA) study, the findings of which were published in Spine Deformity by Brian Neuman (formerly of John Hopkins but now associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Washington University (St Louis, USA) et al.

“With this study, we wanted to explore the association between certain pre-surgery factors and chronic, post-surgery opioid use among patients treated surgically for ASD,” said Neuman. “We decided to define chronic opioid use as opioid use one year and two years after ASD surgery.”

The research team reviewed the Johns Hopkins Hospital database of patients who underwent ASD surgery between January 2008 and February 2018. After selecting 119 patients from these records—all of whom were 18 years or older and had the necessary clinical data available—the team analysed that data, which included the patients’ reported preoperative health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and their one- and two-year postoperative follow-up.

Results showed that while factors such as age, sex, and history of smoking were not associated with chronic postoperative opioid use among ASD surgery patients, other factors were: primarily preoperative opioid use and duration of preoperative pain. Patients who had engaged in preoperative opioid use were six times more likely to report chronic opioid use after their operation. Those who had experienced four or more years of preoperative pain were three times more likely to report postoperative chronic opioid use.

Neuman believes these results can be used to inform preoperative conversations between surgeons and patients about the risk of postoperative opioid addiction.

“Physicians can explain that while most patients do not become addicted to opioids, preoperative opioid use and duration of preoperative pain may increase that risk,” he said. “For patients with multiple risk factors and those concerned about addiction, physicians can offer alternative pain management methods, such as non-narcotic medications, and provide early referrals to pain management specialists. Physicians can also assess if there are any behavioural factors that could be better evaluated by a psychologist who specialises in pain management.”

Brian Neuman reports grants/research support from DePuy Synthes and is on the speaker’s bureau for Medtronic.


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