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New Opioid Persistence in Veterans Following Major and Minor Surgery. Mil Med 2022 Nov 01



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INTRODUCTION: Opioids are often a mainstay of managing postsurgical pain. Persistent use of opioids for more than 90 days after surgery is problematic, and the incidence of this adverse outcome has been reported in the civilian population ranging from 0.4% to 7%. Veterans compose a special population exposed to trauma and stressful situations and consequently face increased risk for habit-forming behavior and drug overdose. This evaluation determined the prevalence of opioid persistence after surgery and its relationship to patient characteristics in a military veteran population.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review was completed on 1,257 veterans who were opioid naive and had undergone a surgical procedure between January 2017 and May 2018. Patient characteristics, health conditions, and discharge opioid medications were recorded, and the incidence of persistent opioid use beyond 90 days was determined.

RESULTS: The incidence of opioid persistence following major (3.3%) and minor (3.4%) procedures was similar. The incidence in patients younger than 45 years (3.3%), between 45 and 64 years (4.3%), and 65 years and older (2.2%) was also determined to be similar. Univariate patient factors associated with an increased risk for persistent opioid use include cancer (odds ratio [OR], 2.13; 95% CI, 1.11-4.09), mental health disorders (OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.17-4.60), and substance use disorders (OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.09-4.00).

CONCLUSIONS: Among a cohort of over 1,200 opioid-naïve veterans undergoing surgery at a VA Medical Center, just over 3% went on to develop persistent opioid use beyond 3 months following their procedure. Persistent use was not found to be related to the type of procedure (major or minor) or patient age. Significant patient-level risk factors for opioid persistence were cancer and a history of mental health and substance use disorders.

Author List

Kiamanesh CS, Fuller MC, Lu M, Nordin EJ, Ma JX, Dugan SM, Cummings CE, Sherman K, Ebert TJ


Craig Elliott Cummings MD Assistant Professor in the Anesthesiology department at Medical College of Wisconsin