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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 May 2021 - 7 May 2021

2021 Apr 02

J Clin Med



In the Arms of Morpheus without Morphia; Mitigating the United States Opioid Epidemic by Decreasing the Surgical Use of Opioids.


The opioid epidemic is a major public health issue in the United States. Exposure of opioid naïve-patients to opioids in the perioperative period is a well-documented source of continued use with one in 20 opioid-naïve surgical patients continuing to use opioids beyond 90 days. There is no association with magnitude of surgery, major versus minor, and the strongest predictor of continued use is surgical exposure. Causal factors include over reliance on opioids for intraoperative and postoperative analgesia and excessive ambulatory opioid prescribing. Opioid-induced hyperalgesia can paradoxically result from intraoperative (anesthesia controlled) opioid administration. Increasing size of initial prescription is a strong predictor of continued use necessitating procedure specific supplies limited to under 3-days. Alternative multimodal pain management (non-opioid medications and regional anesthesia) that limit opioid use must be a high priority with opioids reserved for severe breakthrough pain. Barriers to implementation of opioid-sparing pathways include reluctance to adopt protocols and apprehension about opioid elimination. Considering the number of surgeries performed annually in the United States, perioperative physicians must aggressively address modifiable factors in surgical patients. Patient care pathways need to be constructed collaboratively by surgeons and anesthesiologists with continuing feedback to optimize patient outcomes including iatrogenic opioid dependence.