March 09, 2017

Opioids before surgery mean higher costs, more problems more likely afterward

Research suggests that patients and physicians should be aware of opioid use before elective operations such as hysterectomy and bariatric surgery

Opioid prescriptions

Surgery patients often go home from the hospital with a prescription for painkillers to take as they recover.

But a new study suggests that doctors should also be cognizant of potential downsides related to patients taking such medicines before their operations.

People who received prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the months before elective abdominal operations had longer hospital stays, and a higher chance of needing follow-up care in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, than patients who weren’t taking the drugs before they had the same operations, the study finds.

The extra care translated into higher costs for their post-surgery care — double or triple the amount, with higher opioid doses associated with higher costs.

The results are published in Annals of Surgery by a team from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. They, and past research on the association between opioids and outcomes for other types of surgery, are enough to prompt the researchers to suggest that pre-operation opioid use should be considered a preoperative risk factor.