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Post-operative opioid scripts not always necessary: Study

Posted On: Jun. 14, 2021 1:56 PM CST


A new study suggests that surgeons can forgo prescribing opioids following common operations, avoiding the possibility of long-term painkiller use.

Published in the Annals of Surgery by a team from Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center, researchers analyzed 2019 data from a statewide surgical care registry and surveyed patients about their experience after they’d had a chance to recover.

Eighty-six percent of the patients received a prescription for an opioid after they had hernia, gallbladder, appendix, bowel, thyroid or gynecological operations and when the researchers compared those patients’ experiences and survey responses with data from the 14% of patients who only got nonopioid painkiller prescriptions, they found little difference, according to the university.

In all, an equal percentage — 12% — of both groups of patients had a major adverse event within 30 days of their initial operation. Specifically, there was no difference in complications, emergency department visits, or reoperations between groups. Patients not prescribed opioids were slightly more likely to be readmitted to the hospital, but rarely due to pain-related issues.

There was also no difference in the percentage who sought emergency care for pain, according to the study’s findings.

The survey, carried out one month to three months after their operation, asked patients about their pain in the first seven days after they left the hospital, their satisfaction with their care, their quality of life and their level of regret about having surgery. Nearly 60% of patients completed it.

Those who didn’t receive opioid prescriptions were more likely to report no pain in the first week after surgery than those who did: 12% vs. 7%. The nonopioid patients were also slightly more likely to say they had the best possible quality of life after surgery: 66% vs. 63%.