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Papers: 23 Nov 2019 - 29 Nov 2019

Human Studies

2020 Apr 28

Scand J Pain



Chronic abdominal pain and persistent opioid use after bariatric surgery.


Simoni AH, Ladebo L, Christrup LL, Drewes AM, Johnsen SP, Olesen AE
Scand J Pain. 2020 Apr 28; 20(2):239-251.
PMID: 31756166.


Background and aims Bariatric surgery remains a mainstay for treatment of morbid obesity. However, long-term adverse outcomes include chronic abdominal pain and persistent opioid use. The aim of this review was to assess the existing data on prevalence, possible mechanisms, risk factors, and outcomes regarding chronic abdominal pain and persistent opioid use after bariatric surgery. Methods PubMed was screened for relevant literature focusing on chronic abdominal pain, persistent opioid use and pharmacokinetic alterations of opioids after bariatric surgery. Relevant papers were cross-referenced to identify publications possibly not located during the ordinary screening. Results Evidence regarding general chronic pain status after bariatric surgery is sparse. However, our literature review revealed that abdominal pain was the most prevalent complication to bariatric surgery, presented in 3-61% of subjects with health care contacts or readmissions 1-5 years after surgery. This could be explained by behavioral, anatomical, and/or functional disorders. Persistent opioid use and doses increased after bariatric surgery, and 4-14% initiated a persistent opioid use 1-7 years after the surgery. Persistent opioid use was associated with severe pain symptoms and was most prevalent among subjects with a lower socioeconomic status. Alteration of absorption and distribution after bariatric surgery may impact opioid effects and increase the risk of adverse events and development of addiction. Changes in absorption have been briefly investigated, but the identified alterations could not be separated from alterations caused solely by excessive weight loss, and medication formulation could influence the findings. Subjects with persistent opioid use after bariatric surgery achieved lower weight loss and less metabolic benefits from the surgery. Thus, remission from comorbidities and cost effectiveness following bariatric surgery may be limited in these subjects. Conclusions Pain, especially chronic abdominal, and persistent opioid use were found to be prevalent after bariatric surgery. Physiological, anatomical, and pharmacokinetic changes are likely to play a role. However, the risk factors for occurrence of chronic abdominal pain and persistent opioid use have only been scarcely examined as have the possible impact of pain and persistent opioid use on clinical outcomes, and health-care costs. This makes it difficult to design targeted preventive interventions, which can identify subjects at risk and prevent persistent opioid use after bariatric surgery. Future studies could imply pharmacokinetic-, pharmacodynamics-, and physiological-based modelling of pain treatment. More attention to social, physiologic, and psychological factors may be warranted in order to identify specific risk profiles of subjects considered for bariatric surgery in order to tailor and optimize current treatment recommendations for this population.