Study Finds Post-Op Pain-Management Medication Doesn’t Have to Include Opioids

February 5, 2021 11:40:30

A team of researchers from Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan conducted a study on post-op pain management that involved 620 patients who had undergone operations in various hospitals across the state. For the study, patients had their use of painkillers tracked and then participated in surveys in the months following their surgeries.

In the study, which was reported in “JAMA Surgery,” researchers noted that, prior to surgery, half of the patients were counselled on alternative treatments for pain management that did not involve opioids. A third of the patients in this particular group were not prescribed any opioids post-surgery while the remaining received small prescriptions.

The other half were each prescribed doses of opioids after their surgeries that were larger than the prescriptions given to the other group of patients. However, most patients did not finish their prescriptions, thus leaving pills that posed a danger if ingested inappropriately, not only to the patients but also to other individuals in their household.

Both patient groups had undergone similar operations, including procedures such as hernia repairs, partial or full thyroid removals or gallbladder removals. The researchers noted that patients in both groups reported that they were satisfied with their care, despite the difference in the use of painkillers. Patients from the group that hadn’t received any pain medication reported that they experienced less pain generally.

A resident in the U-M surgery department, Maia Anderson, who is also the study’s first author, stated that it was exciting to consider the potential for sparing opioids for post-op pain management. This approach may not only decrease the risks of opioids for patients but also reduce the risk of the drugs being redirected into communities.

Surgical resident and senior author of the study Ryan Howard added that by decreasing or eliminating the use of opioids for patients after surgery, patients could be protected. He explained that while many believed that patients would be miserable and suffer from uncontrolled pain, the study indicated that patients who received no prescriptions as well as those who got small prescriptions for opioids were satisfied with their post-op recovery.

The study utilized data from the Michigan Surgical Quality Consortium, which is working on improving surgical care in 70 health centers in Michigan.

For the study, Anderson and Howard collaborated with Michael Englesbe, Jennifer Waljee and Chad Brummett, who run the Michigan Opioid Prescribing and Engagement Network; all are members of the U-M Medical School faculty.

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