Adolescents and young adults prescribed opioid pain medications after surgery commonly refill these prescriptions for months beyond typical recovery time, indicating a possible pathway to continued, non-medical opioid use. “The opioid epidemic is a significant public health problem that has affected all age groups in the U.S., including adolescents and young adults,” Calista M. Harbaugh, MD, a general surgery resident at the University of Michigan Medical School and pediatric surgery researcher at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Michigan Opioid Engagement Network, told Healio Internal Medicine.
New persistent opioid use after surgery is common and is not significantly different between minor and major surgical procedures but rather associated with behavioral and pain disorders. This suggests its use is not due to surgical pain but addressable patient-level predictors. New persistent opioid use represents a common but previously underappreciated surgical complication that warrants increased awareness.
As for nurse case managers, “these findings present an opportunity for us to identify patients at the highest risk before surgery so that we can educate patients on safe opioid use, review prescriptions for appropriateness and monitor following surgery,” Harbaugh said. “It is important for providers from all specialties to be aware of this possible complication so that communication and transitions of care are enhanced when prescription opioids are provided at the time of surgery.” In return are cost savings in re-injury, medications and lost time due to medication overuse.
Reference: Harbaugh CM, et al. Persistent opioid usage among pediatric patients following surgery in the United States. JAMA Surg. 2017;152(6): e170504. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.0504