Tag Archive | opioid

Why US Orthopaedic Residents Overprescribe Opiates

Hydrocodone Has Dark Side as Recreational DrugSeveral authors have described the medical-school experience as “socialization” into the medical field. Medical students often learn the scientific underpinnings simultaneously with the social processes of interviewing/dialoging, examining, and then developing a treatment plan with the patient. One “subspecialty” social process that orthopaedists learn is pain management. While we are certainly encouraged to understand the scientific basis of this important and complex topic, much of the learning comes in the form of mirroring: junior residents do what senior residents instruct them to do, while senior residents follow the direction of attendings. These passed-on habits are culturally ingrained and persistent.

As Young et al. show in the July 17, 2019 issue of The Journal, the pain-management habits learned in training vary greatly from country to country, which is not surprising. Specifically, these authors examined the prescribing of postprocedural opiates by residents in the Netherlands, Haiti, and United States. They found that US residents prescribe significantly more morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) of opioids at patient discharge than residents from either of the other 2 countries. The authors also showed that residents from the United States were the only group prescribing a significantly greater amount of MMEs to patients younger than 40 years old than to those above the age of 70.

Many pundits pin the phenomenon of opioid overprescribing in the US on the American public’s wish to be free from discomfort, along with the aggressive marketing and advertising of these medications in the United States. While this may be true, I think Young et al. have further identified the major influence that a resident’s training environment may have on prescribing practices. As already mentioned, residents often imitate what they see from more experienced residents and attendings, but sometimes those lessons, especially in pain management, lack a scientific basis.

What is missing from this survey-based study is data on patient satisfaction with postprocedural opiate prescribing. Having been involved in clinical care in Haiti, my impression is that patients there accept the local practice of pain management, constrained as it might be by resource limitations. I suspect the same is true in the United States and the Netherlands. Regardless, these findings demand that emphasis be placed on teaching orthopaedic residents evidence-based pain-management protocols. This will require a concerted effort from teachers and mentors at all levels of our medical-education system. This investigation is an important reminder that developing solutions to the opioid overprescribing problem in the US might begin in residency, where “cultural formation” occurs.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

What’s New in Spine Surgery 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 OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries. This month, Jacob M. Buchowski, MD, MS, coauthor of the June 19, 2019 What’s New in Spine Surgery,” selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 47 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.

Predictive Analytics for Deformity Conditions
–A validated model for predicting outcomes after lumbar spine surgery1 found that patients with lower preoperative disability scores, those covered by Medicaid or Workers’ Compensation, and current and previous smokers were less likely to improve with lumbar fusion surgery. Invasiveness of surgery and surgeon and hospital type had lower predictive value.

Early-Onset Scoliosis (EOS)
–A 5-year direct-cost estimate2 comparing magnetic growing rods and conventional growing rods for the treatment of EOS found the total cost for magnetic growing rods to be £34,741 compared with £52,293 for conventional growing rods.

Pediatric Neuromuscular Scoliosis
–A Level-II study investigated patient factors associated with postoperative pulmonary complications among patients with neuromuscular scoliosis who underwent posterior spinal fusion.3 Patients with a history of pneumonia or gastrotomy tube at the time of surgery had an elevated risk of postoperative respiratory infections.

Opioid Consumption
–Findings from a retrospective study of >27,000 patients who underwent lumbar decompression with or without fusion revealed that the majority of patients using prescription opioids discontinued those medications postoperatively. However, among the patients with opioid use >90 days after surgery, the duration of preoperative opioid use was the most important predictor of postoperative opioid use.

Neurological Decline after Adult Spinal Deformity Surgery
–In a retrospective analysis of 265 patients who underwent corrective surgery for adult spinal deformity,4 23% of patients experienced a neurological injury; among those, 33% experienced a major neurological decline. Among the patients with major decline, full recovery was observed in 24% at 6 weeks and 65% at 6 months, but one-third of those patients experienced persistent neurological deficits at 24 months postoperatively. Among patients who experienced a minor neurological injury, 49% reported full recovery at 6 weeks and 70% reported full recovery at 6 months. About one-quarter of those patients showed no improvement at 24 months.

References

  1. Khor S, Lavallee D, Cizik AM, Bellabarba C, Chapman JR, Howe CR, Lu D, Mohit AA, Oskouian RJ, Roh JR, Shonnard N,Dagal A, Flum DR. Development and validation of a prediction model for pain and functional outcomes after lumbar spine surgery. JAMA Surg.2018 Jul 1;153(7):634-42.
  2. Harshavardhana NS, Noordeen MHH, Dormans JP. Cost analysis of magnet-driven growing rods for early-onset scoliosis at 5 years. Spine (Phila Pa 1976).2019 Jan 1;44(1):60-7.
  3. Luhmann SJ, Furdock R. Preoperative variables associated with respiratory complications after pediatric neuromuscular spine deformity surgery. Spine Deform.2019 Jan;7(1):107-11.
  4. Kato S, Fehlings MG, Lewis SJ, Lenke LG, Shaffrey CI, Cheung KMC, Carreon LY, Dekutoski MB, Schwab FJ, Boachie-Adjei O, Kebaish KM, Ames CP, Qiu Y, Matsuyama Y, Dahl BT, Mehdian H, Pellisé F, Berven SH. An analysis of the incidence and outcomes of major versus minor neurological decline after complex adult spinal deformity surgery: a subanalysis of Scoli-RISK-1 study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976).2018 Jul 1;43(13):905-12.

NEJM Knowledge+ Module on Pain Management and Opioids

There is little doubt that dramatic increases in prescriptions for opioid analgesics during the 21st century have been a major contributor to the current opioid crisis. Although primary care providers are at the front line of pain management and addiction prevention and treatment, recent research indicates that orthopaedic surgeons frequently overprescribe opioids to their patients. To help support safer prescribing, NEJM Group, through an independent educational grant and with support from Boston University School of Medicine, recently launched a NEJM Knowledge+ Pain Management and Opioids module.

The course, which contains more than 60 case-based questions on this timely and important topic, is available free of charge at https://knowledgeplus.nejm.org/pain-opioids. The activity conforms to the FDA’s Opioid Analgesic REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Treatment and Monitoring of Patients with Pain.

Many of the case-based questions in the module are geared toward primary care physicians, but approximately 50% of them deal with managing pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions. Just like JBJS Clinical Classroom, which was developed with the NEJM Knowledge+ adaptive-learning platform, this new pain management and opioid module delivers each case-based question and then uses an algorithm that identifies individual learners’ knowledge gaps, followed by targeted content that addresses those gaps after each question has been answered.

Risk Factors for Persistent Opioid Use after Bunion Surgery

OrthoBuzz has previously reported on studies examining the narcotic-prescribing patterns of foot and ankle surgeons. New findings published by Finney et al. in the April 17, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery strongly suggest that the single most powerful and modifiable risk factor for persistent opioid use after bunion surgery was the opioid dose perioperatively prescribed by the surgeon.

The authors analyzed a US private-insurance database to identify >36,500 opioid-naïve patients (mean age, 49 years; 88% female) who underwent one of three surgical bunion treatments. Among those patients, the rate of new persistent opioid use (defined as filling an opioid prescription between 91 and 180 days after the surgery) was 6.2%, or >2,200 individuals. The authors found that patients who underwent a first metatarsal-cuneiform arthrodesis were more likely to have new persistent opioid use, compared with those who received a distal metatarsal osteotomy, which was the most common procedure performed in this cohort. Additional findings included the following:

  • Patients who filled an opioid prescription prior to surgery were more likely to continue to use opioids beyond 90 days after surgery.
  • Patients who resided in regions outside the Northeastern US demonstrated significantly higher rates of new persistent opioid use.
  • The presence of medical comorbidities, preexisting mental health diagnoses, and substance-use disorders were associated with significantly higher new persistent opioid use.

However, physician prescribing patterns had the biggest influence on new persistent opioid use. A total prescribed perioperative opioid dose of >337.5 mg (equivalent to approximately 45 tablets of 5-mg oxycodone) was the major modifiable risk factor for persistent opioid use in this cohort. The authors also pointed out that 45 tablets of 5-mg oxycodone “is a relatively low amount when compared with common orthopaedic prescribing patterns” (see related JBJS study).

As orthopaedic surgeons in all subspecialties rethink their narcotic-analgesic prescribing habits, they should remember that regional anesthesia and non-opiate oral pain-management protocols have had a positive impact on pain management while minimizing narcotic use. The smallest dose of opioids for the shortest period of time seems to be a good rule of thumb.

Are We Overprescribing Opiates to Some Pediatric Patients?

How much opioid analgesia do pediatric patients need after closed reduction and percutaneous pinning of a supracondylar humeral fracture? Not as much as they are being prescribed, suggests a study of 81 kids (mean age of 6 years) by Nelson et al. in the January 16, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

All patients in the study underwent closed reduction and percutaneous pinning at a single pediatric trauma center. The authors collected opioid utilization data and pain scores (using the Wong-Baker FACES scale) for postoperative days 1 to 7, 10, 14, and 21 via a text-message system, with automated text queries sent to the phones of the parents/guardians of the patients. (Click here for another January 16, 2019 JBJS study that relied on text messaging.)

Not surprisingly, the mean postoperative pain ratings were highest on the morning of postoperative day 1, but even those were only 3.5 out of a possible 10. By postop day 3, the mean pain rating decreased to <2. As you’d expect, postoperative opioid use decreased in parallel to reported pain.

Overall, patients used only 24% of the opioids they were prescribed after surgery. (See related OrthoBuzz post about the discrepancy between opioids prescribed and their actual use by patients.) Considering that pain levels and opioid usage decreased in this patient population to clinically unimportant levels by postoperative day 3, the authors conclude that “opioid prescriptions containing only 7 doses would be sufficient for the majority of [pediatric] patients after closed reduction and percutaneous pinning without compromising analgesia.”

Now that some normative data such as these are available, Nelson et al. “encourage orthopaedic surgeons treating these common [pediatric] injuries to reflect on their opioid-prescribing practices.” They also call for prospective randomized studies into whether non-narcotic analgesia might be as effective as opioid analgesia for these patients.

Education, Guidelines, Willingness: Keys to Changing Opioid-Prescribing Habits

When planning for any type of surgical procedure, the orthopaedist considers many patient and injury-specific variables. With a distal radius fracture, for example, the main goal of the surgery—anatomic reconstruction of the distal radius—remains constant. However, there are numerous other variables (fracture morphology and patient age, just to name 2) that have to be considered to achieve that goal. Yet, when it comes to postoperative pain control, I imagine that most orthopaedic surgeons prescribe the same amount of opioids to almost every patient undergoing an open reduction/internal fixation of a distal radius fracture, regardless of unique patient characteristics. Our medical mantra that “no two patients are the same” seems to fall by the wayside when it comes to postoperative pain control.

This disconnect is what I thought about while reading the article by Stepan et al. in the January 2, 2019 issue of The Journal. The authors’ institution developed and disseminated to all prescribers a 1-hour opioid education program and consensus-based postoperative opioid prescription guidelines. They then compared the number of opioid pills and total oral morphine equivalents prescribed after 9 ambulatory procedures within 3 subspecialty services (sports medicine, hand, and foot and ankle) prior to and after implementation of the guidelines. Stepan et al. found a significant decrease  in the amount of narcotics prescribed after 6 of the 9 surgery types after implementation of the guidelines. Over the course of a year, those decreases would have equaled about 30,000 fewer opioid pills!

Interestingly, there was no significant post-guideline decrease in opioid prescribing after any of the 3 foot-and-ankle procedures. The authors attribute that finding to the slow adoption of the guidelines due to adherence to previously developed pain-management recommendations in this subspecialty.

It has become apparent that we tend to overprescribe opioids postoperatively (see related OrthoBuzz post). This study supports previous data showing that prescription guidelines can be useful in decreasing the amount of postoperative narcotics prescribed to patients, while maintaining adequate pain management and good levels of patient satisfaction.  While further work in developing educational tools and procedure-specific “standards” to help surgeons guide their postoperative prescribing practices would be useful, a surgeon’s mindfulness is equally important. We need first to recognize that orthopaedic surgeons tend to overprescribe postoperative opioids—and second, we must be willing to change our habits. Without both awareness and willingness, the best guidelines and recommendations will be ignored, and an opportunity for us to help curb the opioid crisis in our country will be wasted.

Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

What’s New in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation 2018

Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—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 OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.

This month, Nitin Jain, MD, MSPH, a co-author of the November 21, 2018 Specialty Update on Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, summarized the most clinically compelling findings from among the more than 40 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.

Acute Pain Management

–A randomized double-blind study comparing 4 two-way combinations of analgesics (three of which contained an opioid medication)1 in emergency-department patients experiencing acute extremity pain found no significant between-group differences in mean pain scores at 1 and 2 hours after medication administration.

Total Hip Arthroplasty

–A randomized clinical trial of >100 patients who underwent unilateral total hip arthroplasty found no significant differences in functional outcomes between a group that participated after surgery in a self-directed home exercise program and a group that participated in a standardized physical therapy program.

Concussion

–An assessment of brain tissue from 202 American football players2 whose organs were donated for neuropathological evaluation found that 87% had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Analysis of brain tissue from former NFL players in the cohort showed that nearly all had severe CTE.

Rotator Cuff Tears

–A study following the natural progression of full-thickness, asymptomatic, degenerative rotator cuff tears found that patients with fatty muscle degeneration were more likely to experience tear-size progression than those without fatty infiltration.

Low Back Pain

–A study consolidating data from 3 separate randomized trials attempted to evaluate the efficacy of radiofrequency (RF) neurotomy for treating a heterogeneous collection of diagnoses that commonly result in low back pain.3 No significant or clinically important differences were found when the RF procedure was compared with a standardized exercise program. The number needed to treat for all 3 arms of the study ranged from 4 to 8, with a median of 5. Some have called into question the methods of this study, particularly the diagnostic criteria used for patient inclusion and the potential inaccuracy of lumping together heterogeneous diagnoses.

References

  1. Chang AK, Bijur PE, Esses D, Barnaby DP, Baer J. Effect of a single dose of oral opioid and nonopioid analgesics on acute extremity pain in the emergency department: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2017 Nov 7;318(17):1661-7.
  2. Mez J, Daneshvar DH, Kiernan PT, Abdolmohammadi B, Alvarez VE, Huber BR, Alosco ML,Solomon TM, Nowinski CJ, McHale L, Cormier KA, Kubilus CA, Martin BM, Murphy L, Baugh CM, Montenigro PH, Chaisson CE, Tripodis Y, Kowall NW, Weuve J, McClean MD, Cantu RC,Goldstein LE, Katz DI, Stern RA, Stein TD, McKee AC. Clinicopathological evaluation of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in players of American football. JAMA. 2017 Jul 25;318(4):360-70.
  3. Juch JNS, Maas ET, Ostelo RWJG, Groeneweg JG, Kallewaard JW, Koes BW, Verhagen AP, van Dongen JM, Huygen FJPM, van Tulder MW. Effect of radiofrequency denervation on pain intensity among patients with chronic low back pain: the Mint randomized clinical trials. JAMA. 2017;318(1):68-81.

Opioid-Tapering Plan May Help Prevent Prolonged Use after Trauma/Surgery

Hydrocodone Has Dark Side as Recreational DrugAddressing the opioid epidemic requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society, but the role of surgeons (orthopaedic and otherwise) cannot be ignored because they determine how best to manage postoperative pain for millions of patients. OrthoBuzz recently commented on two opioid-related studies from the July 18, 2018 issue of JBJS. In the August 1, 2018 edition of The Journal, Mohamadi et al. explain findings from a meta-analysis of 37 studies involving nearly 2 million patients that pinpoint several patient-related risk factors associated with opioid use beyond 2 months following surgery or trauma.

Using careful meta-analysis methods, the authors determined that about 4% of patients continued to use prescription opioids beyond 2 months after surgery or trauma. They also identified the following risk factors as being “among the most important predictors of prolonged opioid use” in these patients:

  • Prior use of opioids or benzodiazepines
  • Depression
  • Long-duration hospital stay
  • History of back pain

Mohamadi et al. also calculated a “number needed to harm” (NNH) from their data. NNH indicates the number of patients with a certain risk factor that is necessary to result in 1 person with prolonged opioid use beyond that of a patient population without that risk factor. They found that for every 3 patients with a history of opioid use, every 23 patients with a history of back pain, every 40 with depression, or every 62 with a history of benzodiazepine use, 1 patient will continue to use prescribed opioids for an extended time period.

Because this meta-analysis was derived from observational studies, the authors caution that “causal inferences could not be drawn for the proposed risk factors.” But they do offer a practical piece of advice gleaned from prior research: Provide patients with an opioid-tapering plan at the time of discharge to significantly reduce the likelihood of prolonged opioid use.

Prescribing Opioids: Smallest Dose for Shortest Time

Opioid for OBuzzSome 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

What’s New in Hand and Wrist Surgery 2018

Human Hand Anatomy IllustrationEvery month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—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 OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.

This month, Sanjeev Kakar, MD, author of the March 21, 2018 Specialty Update on Hand and Wrist Surgery, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the nearly 40 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.

Distal Radius Fractures

—When can a patient safely drive after surgical treatment of a distal radial fracture? According to a prospective study by Jones et al.1, most patients can do so within 3 weeks following surgery. Twenty-three patients had their driving evaluated 2 and 4 weeks after volar plating. Sixteen of the 23 patients drove safely on a closed course with both hands on their first attempt, which averaged 18 days after surgery.

Scaphoid Fractures

—One factor contributing to scaphoid nonunion is impaired vascularity. So, if the proximal pole of the scaphoid is avascular, is the use of vascularized bone grafting mandatory? No, according to a prospective study by Rancy et al.2, which followed 35 scaphoid nonunion patients treated with curettage, nonvascularized bone grafting, and headless screw fixation. Nine of 23 proximal pole fractures demonstrated ischemia on MRI imaging; 28 of 33 were found to have impaired intraoperative punctate bleeding; and 18 patients had ≥50% tissue necrosis on pathological analysis. CT analysis revealed that 33 of the 35 scaphoids had healed by three months, leading the authors to conclude that nonvascularized bone grafting can suffice as long as the fracture is appropriately reduced and stabilized.

Kienbock Disease

—Lichtman et al.3 introduced a new algorithm for Kienbock disease management that incorporates previous classification systems plus 5 treatment-guiding questions:

  • How old is the patient?
  • What is the effect of the disease on the lunate?
  • How does the disease affect the wrist?
  • What treatments are available?
  • What are the patient’s requirements?

Depending on the answers, the authors present treatment options ranging from lunate reconstruction to wrist salvage.

Ulnar Impaction

—Some surgeons view radiographic evidence of a reverse oblique inclination in the sigmoid notch as a contraindication for ulnar shortening in patients with ulnar impaction. However, using MRI, Ross et al.4 noted that reverse oblique inclinations of the distal radioulnar joint, as seen on plain radiographs, were not evident when coronal MRI scans were analyzed. They concluded that some patients previously thought to have contraindications to ulnar shortening may in fact be suitable candidates for that procedure.

Prescribing Opioids

—Dwyer et al.5 evaluated an opioid-reduction strategy for patients undergoing carpal tunnel release or volar locking-plate fixation of distal radius fractures. Patients received education and encouragement to use over-the-counter (OTC) medications along with opioids. Among the carpal tunnel cohort (n = 121), the average opioid prescription was for 10 pills compared with 22 in the previous year. Average actual consumption was 3 opioid pills and 11 OTC pills. In the distal radius fracture group (n = 24), the average opioid prescription was 25 pills compared with 39 the year before. These patients consumed on average 16 opioid pills with 20 OTC pills. Patient satisfaction was high in both groups. The authors recommend that physicians prescribe 5 to 10 opioid pills for carpal tunnel release and 20 to 30 pills after volar plating for distal radius fractures.

References

  1. Jones CM, Ramsey RW, Ilyas A, Abboudi J, Kirkpatrick W, Kalina T, Leinberry C. Safe return to driving after volar plating of distal radius fractures. J Hand Surg Am. 2017 Sep;42(9):700-704.e2.
  2. Rancy SK, Swanstrom MM, DiCarlo EF, Sneag DB, Lee SK, Wolfe SW, Scaphoid Nonunion Consortium. Success of scaphoid nonunion surgery is independent of proximal pole vascularity. J Hand Surg Eur Vol. 2017 Jan 1;1753193417732003.
  3. Lichtman DM, Pientka WF 2nd, Bain GI. Kienböck disease: a new algorithm for the 21st century. J Wrist Surg. 2017 Feb;6(1):2-10. Epub 2016 Oct 27.
  4. Ross M, Wiemann M, Peters SE, Benson R, Couzens GB. The influence of cartilage thickness at the sigmoid notch on inclination at the distal radioulnar joint. Bone Joint J. 2017 Mar;99-B(3):369-75.
  5. Dwyer CL, Soong MC, Hunter AA, Dashe J, Tolo ET, Kastayan NG. Prospective evaluation of an opioid reduction protocol in hand surgery. Read at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand Annual Meeting; 2017 Sep 7-9; San Francisco, CA. Paper no. 5.