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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Jan 2020 - 10 Jan 2020

Human Studies

2020 05




Impact of opioid dose escalation on pain intensity: a retrospective cohort study.


Hayes CJ, Krebs EE, Hudson T, Brown J, Li C, Martin BC
Pain. 2020 05; 161(5):979-988.
PMID: 31917775.


Prescribers are often confronted with the decision to escalate opioid doses to achieve adequate analgesia. Understanding the impact of dose escalation on pain intensity is warranted. Using a retrospective cohort study design, Veterans with chronic pain and chronic opioid therapy were identified. Opioid dose escalators (>20% increase in average morphine milligram equivalent [MME] daily dose) were compared to dose maintainers (±20% change in average MME daily dose) assessed over two consecutive 6 month windows. Pain intensity was measured by the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS). The primary analyses used linear repeated measures models among a 1:1 matched sample of escalators and maintainers matched on propensity score and within ±180 days of the index date. Sensitivity analyses were conducted using adjusted linear repeated measures models with and without incorporating stabilized inverse probability of treatment weighting (SIPTW). There were 32,420 dose maintainers and 20,767 dose escalators identified with 19,358 (93%) matched pairs. Pain scores were persistently higher among dose escalators at each 90 day time period after the index date (0-90 Days After Index Date: Dose Escalators:4.68, 95%CI: 4.64, 4.72 Dose Maintainers:4.32, 95%CI: 4.28, 4.36, p<0.0001; 91-180 Days After Index Date: Dose Escalators:4.53, 95%CI: 4.49, 4.57; Dose Maintainers:4.25, 95%CI: 4.22, 4.29, p<0.0001) but were not different in the 90 days prior to the index date (Dose Escalators:4.64, 95%CI: 4.61, 4.68; Dose Maintainers:4.59, 95%CI: 4.55, 4.63, p=0.0551). Sensitivity analyses provided similar results as the primary analyses. Opioid dose escalation among patients with chronic pain is not associated with improvements in NRS pain scores.