Pain or No Pain, We Will Give You Opioids: Relationship Between Number of Opioid Pills Prescribed and Severity of Pain after Operation in US vs Non-US Patients

International Patterns of Opioid Prescribing Workgroup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Patients in the US receive disproportionally higher amounts of opioids after operations compared with their non-US counterparts. We aimed to assess the relationship between perceived pain severity after operation and the amount of opioid medications prescribed at discharge in US vs non-US patients. Methods: We conducted a post-hoc analysis of the International Patterns of Opioid Prescribing multicenter study. Patients 16 years and older who underwent appendectomy, cholecystectomy, or inguinal herniorrhaphy in 1 of 14 participating hospitals across 8 countries between October 2016 and March 2017 were included. In hospitals where pain severity was assessed using a 0 to 10 visual analog scale before hospital discharge, patients were stratified into the following groups, depending on the pain severity: none, mild (1 to 3), moderate (4 to 6), and severe (7 to 10). The number of opioid prescriptions, total number of pills, and oral morphine equivalents prescribed were calculated for each group and US and non-US patients were compared. Results: A total of 2,024 patients were included. Eighty-three percent of US patients without pain were prescribed opioids compared with 8.7% of non-US patients without pain (p < 0.001). The number of opioid prescriptions, number of pills, and oral morphine equivalents prescribed were similar across the 4 pain severity groups in US patients (p > 0.05). In contrast, the number of opioid prescriptions, number of opioid pills, and oral morphine equivalents prescribed among non-US patients were incrementally higher as the pain severity progressed from no pain to severe pain (all, p < 0.05). Conclusions: US patients are prescribed opioids at high rates and doses regardless of pain severity. Additional efforts should be directed toward tailoring opioid prescriptions to patients’ needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-648
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Volume231
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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