Last updated on July 2018

Multimodal Analgesia in Shoulder Arthroplasty


Brief description of study

Opioid medications are associated with many side effects and the risk of abuse or overdose. Orthopaedic surgeons are currently investigating ways to control pain after surgery while limiting the amount of opioid medications prescribed. One way to reduce the amount of opioid medications prescribed, and potentially avoid opioid-associated adverse events, is to use multiple non-opioid medications and anesthetic drugs before surgery, during surgery, and after surgery. This study aims to evaluate a protocol with non-opioid pain medications to reduce the need for opioid medication after shoulder surgery.

Detailed Study Description

The United States constitutes <5% of the world's population but over 80% of the opioid supply and 99% of the hydrocodone supply. In 2014, there were 18,893 deaths from prescription drug overdose, and orthopaedic surgeons are the third highest prescribing physicians for opioids. Surgeons often prescribe opioids to minimize postoperative pain and to reduce the likelihood of readmission for pain. Available data suggests that orthopaedic surgeons are the most likely physicians to prescribe opioids to Medicare patients. Among Medicare patients, opioid prescriptions are over 7 times more likely to come from an orthopaedic surgeon than another type of physician. Yet, despite the significant amount of opioids prescribed by orthopaedic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons often have one of the highest readmission rates for post-operative pain. Many studies have investigated the utilization of opioids after surgery to assess surgeon's tendencies to overprescribe, demographics of those likely to overuse, and adverse events of opioid abusers.

A recent paper by Kim et al. prospectively investigated opioid utilization after upper extremity surgery. This study (n=1,416) showed an opioid utilization rate of just 34%, taking an average 8.1 pills out of 24 prescribed. Patients aged 30-39, those having joint procedures, upper extremity/shoulder surgery, or self-pay/Medicaid insurance were all far more likely to overuse opioids. The study concluded that their surgeons prescribed 3 times the required opioid following surgery and gave recommendations for opioid distribution based on location, procedure type, and patient risk factors. This study's identification of over prescription is congruent with a study completed by Bates et al that showed 67% of patients had a surplus of medications, with 92% not receiving proper medication disposal instructions.

Other recent literature has attempted to risk stratify patients who are more likely to abuse prescription opioids. Morris et al. identified various risk factors including: family history of substance abuse, nicotine dependency, age <45, psychiatric disorders, and lower level of education.These risk factors are associated with aberrant behaviors (non-compliance, early refill request, "lost or stolen" medication), which should raise concerns for any provider prescribing opioids.

Studies have shown that patients who are on chronic opioid therapy before surgery have worse outcomes. A recent study compared chronic opioids users (n= 35,068) versus those who were opioid-nave at the time of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and found the opioid group had more opioid scripts filled per patient at discharge as well as at 3, 6, and 9 months (0.63 scripts/patient vs. 1.2 scripts/patient, p<0.05). These patients also had a higher Charlson Comorbidity Index (p<0.05) and higher rates of respiratory failure, acute kidney failure, pneumonia, all post-operative infections, and infections requiring return to the OR. The study concluded patients should have their opioid consumption controlled during the pre-operative and peri-operative period.

In addition to the complications of opioid medications experienced by orthopaedic patients, a recent nationwide retrospective analysis presents an unintended yet severe problem associated with opioid prescriptions. The incidence of pediatric hospitalizations for opioid toxicity nearly tripled from 1997 to 2012. The over-prescription of opioids creates a readily available source for accidental ingestion by younger children and for intentional opioid overdose by older pediatric/adolescent patients. In fact, a family member's leftover pills have been described as the number one source for pediatric opioid overdose. Moreover, the Center for Disease Control reported that in 2015 the U.S. saw its highest incidence of opioid-related death. Given the frequency and severity of opioid diversion and misuse, orthopaedic surgeons should consider the best methods for controlling patients postoperative pain and also avoid facilitating opiate misuse, whether by orthopaedic patients or other community members. With this goal in mind, this study will investigate regimens for effective postoperative pain control that also minimize the total amount of opioids prescribed.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03586934

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