No Decrease in Pain Relief With Less Opioids After Surgery What are the main findings?

Response: Interestingly, although patients in the opioid-sparing group received much smaller prescriptions and used fewer opioids, they reported the same level of satisfaction, quality of life, and regret as patients in the usual care group. In fact, patients in the opioid-sparing group even reported less pain than patients in the usual care group. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The take-home message here is that patients who receive very small opioid prescriptions (or even no opioid prescription at all) after surgery do not have worse pain, worse satisfaction, or worse quality of life than patients who receive typical opioid prescriptions. This suggests that we can cut down dramatically on postoperative opioid prescribing. Doing so would protect patients from the risks of opioids without compromising their recovery experience. To us, that’s a win-win. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Although we looked a three very common operations in this study, it’s unclear if the same trends would apply to other operations. For example, while I believe that postoperative opioid prescriptions can be significantly reduced for many operations, research is needed to determine whether there are some operations where such a shift would compromise the patient experience. Additionally, patient counseling about what to expect, how to control pain, and the risks of opioids plays a huge part in helping patients have the best recovery possible after surgery. Research focusing on optimal ways to deliver this counseling can also help ensure patients have an optimal recovery.


Anderson M, Hallway A, Brummett C, Waljee J, Englesbe M, Howard R. Patient-Reported Outcomes After Opioid-Sparing Surgery Compared With Standard of Care. JAMA Surg. Published online January 27, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2020.5646

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