Most patients at low risk of developing opioid addiction post surgery, study finds

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Most patients carry a very low risk of developing an opioid addiction after undergoing elective surgery, according to research published in JAMA Surgery Wednesday.

Researchers from Canada analyzed data on outpatient opioid prescriptions dispensed to Ontario residents ages 65 or older who were opioid-naïve (did not have an opioid prescription in the previous year) and underwent one of the following elective surgeries:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery via sternotomy
  • Open and minimally invasive colon restriction surgery
  • Open and minimally invasive radical prostatectomy
  • Open and minimally invasive hysterectomy

The research team measured the time to opioid cessation, defined as not refilling a prescription in the previous 90 days.

The analysis included data from 39,140 patients. It found that by one year after surgery, just 168 of them (0.4 percent) continued to fill an opioid prescription.

"Our study…provides reassurance that the individual risk of long-term opioid use in opioid-naïve surgery patients is low," the study concludes. "Conversely, the large volume of surgeries performed annually means that the population burden of long-term postoperative opioid use remains significant."

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