In 2015, JBJS launched an “article exchange” collaboration with the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) to support multidisciplinary integration, continuity of care, and excellent patient outcomes in orthopaedics and sports medicine.
During the month of August 2018, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Impact of Risk Adjustment on Provider Ranking for Patients With Low Back Pain Receiving Physical Therapy.”
The authors’ findings confirmed their hypothesis that robust risk adjustment is essential for objective comparison of patient-reported outcomes and for accurately reflecting quality of care among patients treated for low back pain.
Prescription opioid use is epidemic in the U.S. Recently, an association was demonstrated between preoperative opioid use and increased health-care utilization following abdominal surgeries. #JBJSInfographics #visualabstract #JBJS
Some people are tired of reading and hearing about the opioid crisis in America. When this topic comes up at meetings, there are rumblings in the crowd. When it’s brought up during hospital safety briefings, there are not-so-subtle eye-rolls, and occasionally I hear frank assertions of “enough already” when new information on the topic appears in the literature. Yet, as two studies in the July 18, 2018 edition of JBJS highlight, this topic is not going away any time soon. And for good reason. We are only starting to scratch the surface of the serious unintended consequences—beyond the risk of addiction—from overly aggressive prescribing and consumption of narcotics.
The first article, by Zhu et al., directly addresses the topic of overprescribing by doctors in China. The authors evaluated how many opioid pills were given to patients who sustained fractures that were treated nonoperatively. The mean number of opioid pills patients reported consuming (7.2) was less than half the mean number prescribed (14.7). More than 70% of patients did not consume all the opioid pills they were prescribed, and 10% of patients consumed no opioids at all. Zhu et al. conclude that “if opioids are used [in this setting], surgeons should prescribe the smallest dose for the shortest time after considering the injury location and type of fracture or dislocation.”
The second article, by Weick et al., underscores the patient-outcome and societal impact of opioid use prior to total hip and knee arthroplasty. Patients from North America who consumed opioids for 60+ days prior to their joint replacement had a significantly increased risk of revision at both the 1-year and 3-year postoperative follow-ups, compared to similar patients who were opioid-naïve before surgery. Similarly, patients who used opioids for 60+ days prior to undergoing a total hip or knee arthroplasty had a significantly increased risk of 30-day readmission, compared to patients who were opioid-naïve. All these differences held when the authors made adjustments for patient age, sex, and comorbidities—meaning that tens of thousands of patients each year can expect to have worse outcomes (and add a large cost burden to the health care system) simply by being on opioid medications for two months preoperatively.
These articles address two very different research questions in two very different regions of the world, but they help expose the chasm in our knowledge surrounding opioid use and misuse. We have been prescribing patients more narcotics than they need while just starting to recognize the importance of minimizing opioid use preoperatively in an effort to maximize surgical outcomes. These two competing impulses emphasize why further opioid-related studies are important. While continuing to look at the negative effects these medications can have on patients, we have to take a hard look at our contribution to the problem.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
In the last decade, the widespread use of regional anesthesia in total knee arthroplasty has led to improvements in pain control, more rapid functional recovery, and reductions in the length of the hospital stay. #JBJS #JBJSInfoGraphics #visualabsrtact
Analgesia after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is a multimodal affair these days. Main goals include maintaining adequate patient comfort while limiting opiate use and permitting early mobilization.
In the August 2, 2017 issue of JBJS, Sogbein et al. report on a blinded randomized study comparing the performance of two types of analgesia often used in multimodal TKA pain-management protocols: preoperative motor-sparing knee blocks and intraoperative periarticular infiltrations.
Prior to surgery, the 35 patients in the motor-sparing block group received a midthigh adductor canal block under ultrasound guidance, combined with posterior pericapsular and lateral femoral cutaneous injections. The 35 patients in the periarticular infiltration group received study-labeled local anesthetics intraoperatively, just prior to component implantation.
Defining the “end of analgesia” as the point at which patient-reported pain at rest or activity rated ≥6 on the numerical rating scale and rescue analgesia was administered, the authors found that the duration of analgesia was significantly longer for the motor-sparing-block group compared with the periarticular-infiltration group. The infiltration group had significantly higher scores for pain at rest for the first 2 postoperative hours and for pain with knee movement at 2 and 4 hours. There were no between-group differences in time to mobilization, length of hospital stay, opiate consumption, or functional recovery.
The use of prescription painkillers in the US increased four-fold between 1997 and 2010, and postoperative overdoses doubled over a similar time period. In the August 2, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Schoenfeld et al. estimated the proportion of nearly 10,000 initially opioid-naïve TRICARE patients who used opioids up to 1 year after discharge for one of four common spinal surgical procedures (discectomy, decompression, lumbar posterolateral arthrodesis, or lumbar interbody arthrodesis).
Eighty-four percent of the patients filled at least 1 opioid prescription upon hospital discharge. At 30 days following discharge, 8% continued opioid use; at 3 months, 1% continued use; and at 6 months, 0.1%. Only 2 patients (0.02%) in this cohort continued prescription opioid use at 1 year following surgery.
In an adjusted analysis, the authors found that an age of 25 to 34 years, lower socioeconomic status, and a diagnosis of depression were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of continuing opioid use. Those patient-related factors notwithstanding, the authors claim that the outcomes in their study “directly contravene the narrative that patients who undergo spine surgery, once started on prescription opioids following surgery, are at high risk of sustained opioid use.”
However, in his commentary on this study, Robert J. Barth, PhD, cautions that the exclusion criteria restricted even this large sample to about 19% of representative spine surgery candidates, making the findings not widely generalizable. Having said that, the commentator adds that the study supports findings of prior research that persistent postoperative opioid use is more related to “addressable patient-level predictors” than postsurgical pain. He also notes that the findings are “supportive of guidelines that call for surgical-discharge prescriptions of opioids to be limited to ≤2 weeks.”
The orthopaedic community worldwide—and especially those of us in the US, the nation most notorious for over-prescribing—has become very cognizant of the epidemic of opioid abuse. Ironically, the current problem was fueled partly by the “fifth vital sign” movement of 10 to 20 years ago, when physicians were encouraged (brow-beaten, in my opinion) to increase the use of opioid medications to “prevent” high pain scores.
Researchers internationally are now pursuing clarification on the appropriate use of these medications. The societal consequences of opioid addiction, which all too often starts with a musculoskeletal injury and/or orthopaedic procedure, have been well documented in the social-science and lay literature. In the May 17, 2017 issue of The Journal, Smith et al. detail an additional consequence to the chronic use of opioid drugs—the negative impact of preoperative opioids on pain outcomes following knee replacement surgery.
Approximately one-quarter of the 156 total knee arthroplasty (TKA) patients analyzed had had at least one preoperative opioid prescription. Patients who used opioids prior to TKA obtained less pain relief from the operation than those who had not used pre-TKA opioids. The authors also found that pain catastrophizing was the only factor measured that was independently associated with pre-TKA opioid use.
To be sure, we need to disseminate this information to the primary care community so they will be more judicious about prescribing these medications for knee arthritis. Additionally, knee surgeons should consider working with primary care providers to wean their TKA-eligible patients off these medications, with the understanding that chronic use preoperatively compromises postsurgical pain relief and functional outcomes.
We have previously published in The Journal the fact that the use of opioids is largely a cultural expectation that varies by country; physicians outside the US often achieve excellent postoperative pain management success without the use of these medications. My bottom line: We must continue to press forward to limit the use of opioid medications in both pre- and postoperative settings.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Anecdotally, many patients experience extreme discomfort after shoulder surgery. The April 5, 2017 issue of JBJS features results from a randomized controlled trial comparing morphine consumption and pain during the 24 hours following shoulder arthroplasty among two groups. One group (n=78) received a preoperative interscalene brachial plexus blockade, while the other (n=78) received intraoperative infiltration of bupivacaine liposome suspension.
Mean total postoperative narcotic consumption during the 24 hours after surgery was not significantly different between the two groups, although intraoperative narcotic consumption was significantly lower in the blockade group. The mean VAS pain scores were significantly lower in the blockade group at 0 and 8 hours postoperatively, the same as in the infiltration group at 16 hours postoperatively, and significantly higher than those in the infiltration group at 24 hours postoperatively. That last finding in patients undergoing blockade represents the phenomenon known as “rebound pain.”
The authors, Namdari et al., conclude that the “optimal postoperative pain regimen for shoulder arthroplasty…require[s] further investigation.” But their analysis uncovered four demographic factors that were associated with higher pain scores at 24 hours after surgery, regardless of the analgesic technique used:
- Younger age
- History of depression
- Higher Charlson Comorbidity Score
- Higher preoperative VAS score
In his commentary on the study, Ranjan Gupta, MD notes that one downside of the block approach is “an inability to assess the patient’s neurologic function after the surgical procedure.” His own early clinical experience leads him to favor the admittedly “laborious” infiltration approach, partly because “both patients and orthopaedic nurses who take care of these patients in the immediate postoperative time period can readily appreciate the lack of rebound pain.”
Given the prevalence of opioid prescriptions, many patients present for total knee arthroplasty (TKA) having been on long-term opioid therapy. In the January 4, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Ben-Ari et al. determined that patients taking opiate medications for more than three months prior to their TKA were significantly more likely than non-users of opioids to undergo revision surgery within a year after the index procedure.
Among the more than 32,000 TKA patients from Veterans Affairs (VA) databases included in the study, nearly 40% were long-term opioid users prior to surgery. Despite that high percentage, the authors found that chronic kidney disease was the leading risk factor for knee revision among the relevant variables they examined. And even though the authors used a sophisticated natural language/machine-learning tool to analyze postoperative notes, they found no association between long-term opioid use and the etiology of the revisions.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Michael Reich, MD and Richard Walker, MD, note that the study’s very specific VA demographic (94% male) may hamper the generalizability of the findings, especially because most TKAs are currently performed in women. Nevertheless, the commentators conclude that:
- “The study illuminates the value in limiting opioid use during the nonoperative treatment of patients with knee arthritis.”
- “Patients who are taking opioids when they present for TKA could reasonably be encouraged to decrease opioid use during preoperative preparation.”
- “Preoperative use of opioids should be considered among modifiable risk factors and comorbidities when deciding whether to perform TKA.”