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Postop Dexamethasone Cuts Opioid Use after AIS Surgery

OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Impact Science, in response to a recent article in JBJS.

Pain management is an important aspect of postoperative care after posterior spinal fusion for the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Opioid medications, while highly effective and commonly used for postoperative analgesia, have many well-documented adverse effects. Several recent studies have suggested that dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid, is an effective adjunct for postoperative pain management after many adult orthopaedic procedures, but its use after AIS surgery has not been well studied.

Beginning in 2017, doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta added dexamethasone to their postoperative pain control pathway for adolescent spinal-fusion patients. In the October 21, 2020 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Fletcher et al. report findings from a cohort study that investigated the postoperative outcomes of 113 patients (median age of 14 years) who underwent posterior spinal fusion between 2015 and 2018. The main outcome of interest—opioid consumption while hospitalized—was determined by converting all postoperative opioids given into morphine milligram equivalents (MME).

Because dexamethasone entered their institution’s standardized pathway for this operation in 2017, it was easy for the authors to divide these patients into two groups; 65 of the study patients did not receive postoperative steroids, while 48 patients were managed with 3 doses of steroids postoperatively. Relative to the former group, the latter group showed a 39.6% decrease in total MME used and a 29.5% decrease in weight-based MME. Patients who received postoperative dexamethasone were also more likely to walk at the time of initial physical therapy evaluation. Notably, the authors found no differences between the groups with regard to wound dihescence or 90-day infection rates—2 complications that have been associated with chronic use of perioperative steroids.

In commenting on these findings, Amy L. McIntosh, MD from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children writes that she was so impressed that she plans “on adding dexamethasone to our institution’s standardized AIS care pathway.”

Impact Science is a team of highly specialized subject-area experts (Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Medicine & Humanities), who collaborate with authors, societies, libraries, universities, and various other stakeholders for services to enhance research impact. Through research engagement and science communication, Impact Science aims at democratizing science by making research-backed content accessible to the world.

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.”

JBJS Webinar-Sept. 23: Opioid Use Challenges and Solutions

Amid the current backdrop of opioid misuse, overdose, and addiction, conducting robust studies to investigate management of musculoskeletal pain is uniquely challenging. Last November, a JBJS-convened symposium, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, explored those challenges. From that meeting came a 12-article JBJS Supplement published in May 2020.

On Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 8 PM EDT, a one-hour live JBJS webinar will focus on 2 of the most salient solutions arising from the symposium.

Jeffrey Katz, MD, MSc will examine how to overcome study-design challenges such as quantifying opioid use, confounding by indication, and distinguishing between nationwide “secular changes” in opioid prescribing and the true effects from studied interventions.

Seoyoung Kim, MD, ScD, MSCE will emphasize that careful attention to methods is crucial when designing and conducting observational studies based on claims databases and patient registries. Widely accepted definitions of many common terms, such as “persistent opioid use,” do not exist.

Moderated by James Heckman, MD, Editor Emeritus of JBJS, the webinar will feature additional expert commentaries on the two author-led presentations. Andrew Schoenfeld, MD will weigh in on Dr. Katz’s paper and Nicholas Bedard, MD will comment on Dr. Kim’s paper.

The webinar will conclude with a 15-minute live Q&A session during which attendees can ask questions of all the panelists.

Seats are limited–so Register Today!

Opioid Use Challenges and Solutions: JBJS Webinar-Sept. 23

Amid the current backdrop of opioid misuse, overdose, and addiction, conducting robust studies to investigate management of musculoskeletal pain is uniquely challenging. Last November, a JBJS-convened symposium, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, explored those challenges, and from that meeting came a 12-article JBJS Supplement published in May 2020.

On Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 8 PM EDT, a one-hour live JBJS webinar will focus on 2 of the most salient solutions arising from the symposium.

Jeffrey Katz, MD, MSc will examine how to overcome study-design challenges such as quantifying opioid use, confounding by indication, and distinguishing between nationwide “secular changes” in opioid prescribing and the true effects from studied interventions.

Seoyoung Kim, MD, ScD, MSCE will emphasize that careful attention to methods is crucial when designing and conducting observational studies based on claims databases and patient registries, because widely accepted definitions of many common terms, such as “persistent opioid use,” do not exist.

Moderated by James Heckman, MD, Editor Emeritus of JBJS, the webinar will feature additional expert commentaries on the two author-led presentations. Andrew Schoenfeld, MD will weigh in on Dr. Katz’s paper and Nicholas Bedard, MD will comment on Dr. Kim’s paper.

The webinar will conclude with a 15-minute live Q&A session during which attendees can ask questions of all the panelists.

Seats are limited–so Register Today!

The NSAID-Fracture Nonunion Debate Continues

Many animal studies have investigated the impact of nonselective NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors on fracture healing. Nearly all those experiments focused on chronic drug administration following simulated long-bone fractures. One concern regarding the clinical relevance of those animal studies is that the “fractures” are often created by open means, which results in cortical devascularization and which may not accurately simulate the most common long-bone fracture pathophysiology in humans. Nevertheless, many orthopaedic surgeons have used the results of those animal studies to limit—or even stop—their use of NSAIDs to treat postfracture pain.

In the July 15, 2020 issue of The Journal, George et al. use a large private-insurance database to investigate the association between postfracture prescriptions filled for NSAIDS (both selective COX-2 inhibitors and nonselective types) and the subsequent diagnosis of a nonunion at 1 year postinjury. Administrative database research is more useful for generating hypotheses than for proving or disproving them, and these authors (along with Commentary writer Willem-Jan Metsemakers, MD, PhD) rightly point out that adequately powered randomized trials are needed to more fully address this issue.

Still, I was a bit surprised by the finding that nonselective NSAIDs were not associated with the diagnosis of nonunion while selective COX-2 inhibitors were. It seems to me that, given the sparse and conflicting clinical evidence today, a brief course of NSAIDs for fracture-related pain management should be included for patients while we await answers from studies with more robust research designs.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

Predictors of Prolonged Analgesic Use after Joint Replacement

OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Eric Secrist, MD in response to a recent study in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

There has been a proliferation of research regarding postoperative opioid usage after joint arthroplasty due to the widespread opioid epidemic. But Rajamäki and colleagues from Tampere University in Finland took the unique approach of also analyzing acetaminophen and NSAID usage in addition to opioids. The authors used robust data from Finland’s nationwide Drug Prescription Register, which contains reliable information on all medications dispensed from pharmacies, including over-the-counter drugs.

After excluding patients who underwent revision surgery or had their knee or hip replaced for a diagnosis other than osteoarthritis, the authors analyzed 6,238 hip replacements in 5,657 patients and 7,501 knee replacements in 6,791 patients, all performed between 2002 and 2013. The mean patient age was 68.7 years and the mean BMI was 29.

One year postoperatively, 26.1% of patients were still filling prescriptions for one or more analgesics, including NSAIDs (15.5%), acetaminophen (10.1%), and opioids (6.7%). Obesity and preoperative analgesic use were the strongest predictors of prolonged analgesic medication usage 1 year following total joint arthroplasty. Other predictors of ongoing analgesic usage included older age, female gender, and higher number of comorbidities. Patients who underwent knee replacement used the 3 analgesics more often than those who underwent hip replacement.

This study had all of the limitations inherent in retrospective database analyses. Additionally, it was not possible for the authors to determine whether patients took analgesic medications for postoperative knee or hip pain or for pain elsewhere in their body. Finally, the authors utilized antidepressant reimbursement data as a surrogate marker for depression and other medications as a surrogate for a Charlson Comorbidity Index.

Figure 2 from this study (shown below) reveals 2 important findings. First, total joint arthroplasty resulted in a significant decrease in the proportion of patients taking an analgesic medication, regardless of BMI. Second, patients in lower BMI categories were less likely to use analgesics both preoperatively and postoperatively.

The findings from this study may be most useful during preoperative counseling for obese patients, who often present with severe joint pain but are frequently told they need to delay surgery to lose weight and improve their complication-risk profile. Based on this study, those patients can be counseled that losing weight will not only decrease their complication risk, but also decrease their reliance on medications for the pain that led them to seek surgery in the first place.

Eric Secrist, MD is a fourth-year orthopaedic resident at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Open-Access JBJS Supplement: Pain Management Research

In November 2019, OrthoBuzz promised readers more details from the Pain Management Research Symposium held that month (see related post), which was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Those details are now available in the form of a JBJS Supplement containing 12 articles generated from that convening of > 30 orthopaedic researchers and journal editors. The Symposium focused on the unique challenges of designing studies that will answer pressing questions about pain management related to musculoskeletal conditions and procedures.

The content of this open-access Supplement ranges from subspecialty-specific considerations in pain management to “complementary medicine” approaches. It culminates in 7 key “Recommendations for Pain Management Research,” all targeted to identifying effective pain-management strategies, not just elimination of opioids. Among those recommendations are the following:

  • Define all terms (such as “long-term opioid use”) precisely.
  • Quantify opioid use in morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs), and state how MMEs were calculated.
  • Precisely define the study population (including age, sex, and socioeconomic and cultural characteristics).
  • Mental/emotional risk factors–including depression, catastrophizing, expectations, and coping ability–should be studied.
  • Outcome measures should be patient-related, not just the number of pills taken.

JBJS would again like to thank NIAMS for its support and all Symposium participants and Supplement authors for their time and energy.

Not All Modes in Multimodal Pain Management are Effective

The public health crisis attributed to opioids has placed increasing emphasis on other approaches to pain management, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic. Although some people find the term “multimodal pain management” to be ambiguous when used in clinical research or patient care, it emphasizes the need for a broader (and multidisciplinary) approach to pain management.

On the pharmacologic side, pregabalin has been found to be a variably effective adjunctive analgesic in research involving joint arthroplasty. However, its use in adolescents and children has not been adequately explored. In the February 5, 2020 issue of The Journal, Helenius et al. investigate the impact of pregabalin on total opioid consumption and pain scores in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 63 adolescents undergoing posterior instrumented spinal-fusion procedures. These operations are quite invasive and often result in ICU admission because of the amount of narcotics required. In this study, induction and maintenance of anesthesia and mobilization protocols were standardized for patients in both the pregabalin and placebo groups, and the authors precisely measured opioid consumption during the first 48 hours after surgery with data from patient-controlled anesthesia systems.

According to the findings from this adequately powered trial, adjunctive pregabalin did not have a positive impact on opioid consumption or postoperative pain scores. Despite these negative findings, it is my hope that this drug and others being investigated as adjunctive “modes” in multimodal pain management will be subjected to similarly designed trials, so we can accurately determine which agents work best in limiting opioid utilization.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

Pain Management Symposium Focuses on Study Design

Designing studies to answer questions about surgical procedures takes a lot of thought, effort, and experience. Creating robust study designs to investigate pain management related to musculoskeletal conditions and procedures presents additional, unique challenges.

On November 19, 2019, more than 30 orthopaedic researchers and journal editors convened to identify—and propose solutions for—those challenges. The one-of-a-kind Pain Management Research Symposium was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS award number 1R13AR076879-01) and hosted by The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Several themes emerged from the daylong discussions and presentations:

  • Despite the fact that 80% of opioid prescriptions worldwide originate in the US, outcome measures going forward should focus on effective pain management rather than reduced or “zero” opioids.
  • The wide variability of definitions of key research terms such as “opioid naïve” and “persistent opioid use” makes it difficult to reach robust conclusions from prior opioid/pain management research.
  • Beware false equations/assumptions. For example, opioid prescription filling is not the same as opioid consumption, and persistent opioid use after surgery does not equal iatrogenic opioid dependence.
  • Surgeons and other physicians must maintain a biopsychosocial perspective on pain management. Risk factors for persistent use of opioids include mental/emotional states such as depression and catastrophizing.
  • Despite some equivocal reports in the orthopaedic literature, there is no convincing evidence that NSAIDs negatively affect fracture healing. Therefore, absent specific patient contraindications, NSAIDs can be considered for pain management in trauma cases.

Many more details from the Pain Management Research Symposium will appear in a special JBJS supplement, scheduled for publication in the first half of 2020.

The Journal would again like to thank all the participants for their time and energy and NIAMS for its support.

What’s New in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation 2019

Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all such OrthoBuzz summaries.

This month, co-author Nitin B. Jain, MD, MSPH selected the most clinically compelling findings from the 40 studies summarized in the November 20, 2019 “What’s New in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation.

Pain Management
–A randomized controlled trial compared pain-related function, pain intensity, and adverse effects among 240 patients with chronic back, hip, or knee pain who were randomized to receive opioids or non-opioid medication.1 After 12 months, there were no between-group differences in pain-related function. Statistically, the pain intensity score was significantly lower in the non-opioid group, although the difference is probably not clinically meaningful. Adverse events were significantly more frequent in the opioid group.

–A series of nested case-control studies found that the use of the NSAID diclofenac was associated with an increase in the risk of myocardial infarction in patients with spondyloarthritis and osteoarthritis, relative to those taking the NSAID naproxen.2

–Intra-articular injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid are often used for pain relief prior to an eventual total knee arthroplasty (TKA). An analysis of insurance data found that patients who had either type of injection within three months of a TKA had a higher risk of periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) after the operation than those who had injections >3 months prior to TKA.

Partial-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears
–A randomized controlled trial of 78 patients with a partial-thickness rotator cuff compared outcomes of those who underwent immediate arthroscopic repair with outcomes among those who delayed operative repair until completing 6 months of nonoperative treatment, which included activity modification, PT, corticosteroid injections, and NSAIDs.3 At 2 and 12 months post-repair, both groups demonstrated improved function relative to initial evaluations. At the final follow-up, there were no significant between-group differences in range of motion, VAS, Constant score, or ASES score. Ten (29.4%) of the patients in the delayed group dropped out of the study due to symptom improvement.

Stem Cell Therapy
–A systematic review that assessed 46 studies investigating stem cell therapy for articular cartilage repair4 found low mean methodology scores, indicating overall poor-quality research. Only 1 of the 46 studies was classified as excellent, prompting the authors to conclude that evidence to support the use of stem cell therapy for cartilage repair is limited by a lack of high-quality studies and heterogeneity in the cell lines studied.

References

  1. Krebs EE, Gravely A, Nugent S, Jensen AC, DeRonne B, Goldsmith ES, Kroenke K, Bair MJ, Noorbaloochi S. Effect of opioid vs nonopioid medications on pain-related function in patients with chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain: the SPACE randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2018 Mar 6;319(9):872-82.
  2. Dubreuil M, Louie-Gao Q, Peloquin CE, Choi HK, Zhang Y, Neogi T. Risk ofcmyocardial infarction with use of selected non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs incpatients with spondyloarthritis and osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Aug;77(8): 1137-42. Epub 2018 Apr 19.
  3. Kim YS, Lee HJ, Kim JH, Noh DY. When should we repair partial-thickness rotator cuff tears? Outcome comparison between immediate surgical repair versus delayed repair after 6-month period of nonsurgical treatment. Am J Sports Med. 2018 Apr;46(5):1091-6. Epub 2018 Mar 5.
  4. Park YB, Ha CW, Rhim JH, Lee HJ. Stem cell therapy for articular cartilage repair: review of the entity of cell populations used and the result of the clinical application of each entity. Am J Sports Med. 2018 Aug;46(10):2540-52. Epub 2017 Oct 12.