NPR reports that a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan has devised an approach that could lead to significant changes in how opioids are prescribed and help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic – prescribing fewer opioids after surgery.
Their findings were published this week in the journal, JAMA Surgery.
The group of surgeons suggests that to lower the risk of opioid addiction, surgeons should prescribe patients fewer painkillers after surgery — a critical time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive opioid medications. They should also talk with patients about proper use of opioids and the associated addiction risks.
The researchers identified 170 post-surgery patients and surveyed them within a year of their gallbladder operations, inquiring about how many pills they actually used. They employed the findings to create new hospital guidelines that cut back on the standard opioid prescription for gallbladder surgeries.
They then analyzed how patients fared under the new approach, tracking 200 surgery patients who received substantially fewer prescribed painkillers and found that despite getting less medication, patients didn’t report higher levels of pain.
They were no more likely than the previously studied patients to ask for prescription refills and were also likely to use less prescribed pain medication.