Study Suggests Appropriate Duration Of Opioids For Pain After Surgery
In an effort to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic, a new study suggests just how long patients can safely use opioids for pain after surgery. And that answer is 4-9 days, according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The authors contend that 4-13 days is appropriate for women’s health procedures, and 6-15 days for musculoskeletal surgery.
From the study:
“An opioid prescription after surgery should balance adequate pain treatment with minimizing the duration of treatment and potential for medication complications, including issues with dependence.”
Misuse of opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone has fueled the opioid crisis and spike in drug overdose deaths in recent years. The authors noted that four times as many prescriptions for opioids were dispensed in 2012 that in 1999.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 4 in 5 new heroin users report initiating their habit after first becoming addicted to prescription painkillers.
About The Study
For the study, researchers examined data from the U.S. Department of Defense from over 215,000 patients who had operations such as gallbladder removal, hysterectomy, and back surgery. The researchers contended that seven-day prescriptions weren’t enough for some procedures.
Indeed, the authors stated, seven-day limitations on first-time opioid prescriptions “are likely adequate in many settings, and indeed also sufficient for many common general surgery and gynecologic procedures.
However, they noted, “in the postoperative setting, particularly after many orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures, a seven-day limit may be inappropriately restrictive.”
According to the CDC, in 2016, an estimated 64,000 Americans died of an overdose, the majority of which involved opioids. The Center also estimates that approximately two million Americans are currently addicted to prescription opioids.
The study, entitled Optimal Length of Opioid Prescription After Common Surgical Procedures, is published in the most recent issue of the journal JAMA Surgery.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology