Orthopedic surgeons overprescribe opioids after total joint replacement, study finds


Total joint replacement patients on average consumed fewer than half the number of opioid pills prescribed by their surgeon, according to a study published in the January/February 2022 edition of the Journal of Orthopaedics.

Three things to know:

1. The study looked at opioid consumption in a cohort of 80 total knee or hip replacements who were provided a journal to track daily consumption of pain medicine. Fifty-five patients completed their pain medicine journal by the end of the study.

2. Patients were prescribed an average of 67 opioid pills but on average consumed only 31. On average, patients ceased opioid usage at 14 days postoperatively.

3. Researchers concluded: "Our findings revealed that patients consume, on average, less than half of their prescribed opioids following TKA and THA procedures, with over 70% of the total opioids consumed during the first week following discharge. The reduction in opioid consumption over the first two weeks postoperatively was associated with a reduction in reported pain scores. In addition, pre-discharge factors that were found to predict higher postoperative opioid consumption included inpatient pain scores, inpatient MEQ consumption, and undergoing TKA procedures. These data can be used to educate patients regarding pain expectations following surgery and develop evidence-based opioid tapering guidelines to effectively manage postoperative pain while limiting opioid use."

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