Low Risk of Post-Operative Opioid Abuse for Elderly Patients

HealthDay News — Opioid abuse arises in only a very small fraction — less than half of 1% — of cases involving surgical patients aged 65 or older, according to a research letter published online August 10 in JAMA Surgery.1

Hance Clarke, MD, PhD, of Toronto Western Hospital, and colleagues tracked rates of opioid use up to 1 year after major surgery for 39140 patients aged 65 or older. All underwent surgery between 2003 and 2010, and none of the patients had previously taken an opioid. 

Surgeries included procedures such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery, lung resection, colon resection, prostatectomy, and hysterectomy. Fifty-three percent of the patients received one or more opioid prescriptions within 90 days after leaving the hospital.

One year after surgery, only 168 of the patients (0.4%) were still receiving a prescription for an opioid, the researchers reported. Thoracic surgery patients had the highest risk of long-term opioid use of any patient type.

The findings provide “reassurance that the individual risk of long-term opioid use in opioid-naive surgical patients is low,” the authors write.

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  1. Soneji N, Clarke HA, Ko DT, Wijeysundera DN. Risks of Developing Persistent Opioid Use After Major Surgery. JAMA Surg. 2016.