Cannabis Users Should Disclose Prior to Surgery

Although many patients believe marijuana is an effective agent to treat chronic and nerve pain, the effect of cannabis on acute musculoskeletal pain has been questioned. In an OrthoBuzz post from 2019, we reported findings published in JBJS indicating that, compared with “never users,” patients who reported using marijuana during recovery from a traumatic musculoskeletal injury experienced increases in both total prescribed opioids and duration of opioid use.

At the 2020 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, researchers reported parallel findings. Among 118 patients who underwent open reduction and internal fixation to repair a tibial fracture, 25% reported using cannabis prior to surgery. When researchers compared the patients who had used cannabis with those who had not, they found the following perioperative and postoperative results among the users:

  • A higher intraoperative requirement for inhalation anesthetic
  • Higher reported pain scores while in the postacute care unit after surgery
  • Higher in-hospital postoperative opioid consumption

In a press release about this study, lead author Ian Holmen, MD is quoted as saying, “…it is important for patients to tell their physician anesthesiologist if they have used cannabis products prior to surgery to ensure they receive the best anesthesia and pain control possible.”

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