September 25, 2023

Study shows serious downside, risks to postop opioid prescription at discharge

Editor's Note

This cohort study, published by the British Journal of Anesthesia in September 2023, finds that surgical patients who are discharged with prescribed opioids have higher risks of hospital readmission and mortality. 

The study looked at data from a territory-wide retrospective cohort of patients in Hong Kong who underwent surgery between January 2000 and November 2020, sourced from Hospital Authority electronic health records. In total, 438,128 patient records were analyzed. Of these patients, 32,932 (7.52%) filled an opioid prescription at discharge, while 405,196 (92.48%) were discharged without opioids.

Patients who received opioid prescriptions had significantly higher odds of developing persistent opioid use, the study found. Prescribing opioids on discharge also increased the odds of 30-day emergency department visits, 30-day readmission, and 30-day all-cause mortality.

Researchers recommended that analgesia with non-opioid-based analgesics and regional block, with or without opioids, should be considered as alternatives for managing postoperative pain.


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