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Complete opioid cessation after surgery improves patient-reported pain measures among chronic opioid users

      Abstract

      Background

      Preoperative chronic opioid use is common, but it is unclear whether complete opioid tapering can be achieved postoperatively without adversely affecting pain control and quality of life. This study was designed to assess the association between complete opioid tapering after surgery and patient-reported outcomes for pain intensity and pain interference.

      Methods

      We identified chronic opioid use patients undergoing a spectrum of nonemergency surgical procedures at a single Veterans Affairs medical institution between December 2017 and 2021. All patients were prospectively followed by a transitional pain service that promoted opioid tapering, assessed opioid use (morphine milligram equivalent), and patient-reported outcomes measurement information system for pain intensity (PROMIS-3a) and pain interference (PROMIS-6b). After stratifying based on whether complete versus partial/no opioid tapering was achieved after surgery, longitudinal changes in patient-reported outcomes and morphine milligram equivalents were compared over time. Independent predictors of complete opioid tapering were assessed using logistic regression models.

      Results

      In total, 341 surgical patients (91% male, mean age 64 years) with chronic opioid use underwent surgery during the study period, of which 44 (13%) completely tapered off opioids within 60 days after discharge from the hospital. Patients who completely tapered had significant improvement in the change in patient-reported outcomes for pain intensity and interference with significant differences at 30 and 60 days after discharge for both measures when compared to the partial/no taper group (both P < .05). In risk-adjusted analyses, patients with lower baseline morphine milligram equivalents and those staying longer in the hospital were more likely to achieve complete opioid tapering (both P < .01).

      Conclusion

      Complete opioid tapering can be successfully achieved after surgery among patients with chronic opioid use with corresponding improvements in self-reported pain intensity and pain interference. Our results suggest that the highest potential for improving patient-reported outcomes with opioid tapering occurs among patients undergoing orthopedic procedures early after surgical discharge.
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