No Decrease in Pain Relief With Less Opioids After Surgery

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Ryan Howard, MD
Academic Development Time Year 1
Resident, General Surgery
University of Michigan

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Opioids are commonly prescribed to control pain after surgery, but they also carry significant risks such as overdose, long-term dependence, and diversion into the community. While some have advocated for decreasing or eliminating opioids from postoperative pain control regimens, others are concerned that this would lead to uncontrolled pain and dissatisfied patients. To study whether that’s true, we compared two groups of patients undergoing the same surgical procedures. One group received “opioid-sparing” prescriptions after surgery and the other group received “normal-sized” prescriptions.

Conditioned Open-Label Placebos Provide Pain Relief in Some Post-Surgical Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Kristin Schreiber, MD, PhD
Neuroscientist and Clinical Regional Anesthesiologist
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Assistant Professor of Anesthesia
Harvard Medical School

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Traditionally, the placebo effect has involved deceiving patients, where they think they may be taking a real medication. “Open-label placebos” are when placebos are given to patients, and patient are told that they are in fact a placebo. Recent research has suggested that these open-label placebos may actually reduce a number of symptoms in patients, including chronic low back pain. We were interested whether this strategy could be used to help reduce pain and opioid use around the time of surgery. We decided to combine the use of OLP with a conditioning approach, so that anytime a patient took an opioid analgesic, they would take the open-label placebo, so that the OLP pills would be associated with pain relief. That way when patients took them on their own, it would serve to trigger an expectation of pain relief, which is thought to at least partially explain the placebo effect.  

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Study Discusses Overlap of Opioid Therapy for Physical and Social Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Mark Sullivan, MD, PhD
Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Adjunct Professor, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Bioethics and Humanities
Medical Co-Director, UW Telepain

Dr. Sullivan

University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: This is a review paper than synthesizes neuroscience, pharmacological and epidemiological research on the opioid epidemic. It has been known since at least the 1970s that opioids treat not only pain due to physical damage, but also separation distress.

Functional neuroimaging (fMRI) studies have shown that physical pain (tissue injury) and social pain (social rejection) activate the same limbic brain centers (insula, cingulate cortex). Both chronic pain and depression are associated with dysfunction of the endogenous opioid system in the human brain. Studies of opioid prescribing have shown that patients with chronic pain, who also have anxiety and depressive disorders are more likely to be prescribed long-term opioid therapy at high doses and with concurrent sedatives.

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Opioid Analgesic Use For Pain Relief in Chronic Noncancer Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dr Stephanie Mathieson
NHMRC Health Professional Research Early Career Fellow
The University of Sydney
Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney School of Public Health
Institute for Musculoskeletal Health
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Australia

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Chronic non-cancer pain, such as chronic non-specific low back pain has a substantial impact on society by costing billions of dollars each year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Current clinical practice guidelines for the management of chronic non-cancer pain, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now recommend avoiding the initial use of opioid analgesics, as the risk of harms, such as overdose and death.

We wanted to establish the extent to which opioid analgesics are used by people with chronic noncancer pain. This is important, as many studies report how many opioids are prescribed, but this may not represent the actual use of opioid analgesics.

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Traditional and Battlefield Acupuncture Provide Post-Op Pain Relief and Reduced Need for Opioids

PainRelief.com Interview with:

  • Brinda Krish, D.O., lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center.
  • Padmavathi Patel, M.D., principal investigator of the study and Medical Director, Northstar Anesthesia at John D. Dingell Veteran Hospital.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Dr. Padmavathi Patel: Pain is a major contributor to health care costs and a common cause of long-term disability (about  $61.2 billion/year) in lost productivity due to pain.

acupuncture

76.2 million Americans (one in four) have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours (2013).

Numerous literature such as:

1. “Use of prescription opioids in the treatment of pain has increased notably over recent decades.”

2. “Rates of death from prescribed opioids increased four fold between 2000 and 2014.”

3. “16,651 opioid related deaths in 2010.”

4. “The problem of opioid overuse and dependence is seen in the military as well as in civilian.”

-Opioid-related side effects could lead to a delay in recovery.
-Pain control is more challenging for military population.
-More extensive injuries and greater pain severity is seen in survivors of combat- related blast injuries compared to those of non-blast civilians and also they require larger opioid doses.
-Pain is a very common patient complaint, both in veteran and non-veteran populations.
-Among the 5.7 million unique patients seen annually with in the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), more than half of these patients experience chronic pain.

In 2017, The DVA and the United States Department of Defense (DoD) published an updated guidelines on opioid therapy for chronic pain that strongly recommends against initiation of long-term opioid use and recommends alternatives, including non-pharmacologic therapy, such as Acupuncture, which has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of painful conditions.

Acupuncture techniques have been in existence for centuries, with roots tied to Eastern Asia. Traditional acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles at specific trigger points around the body to relieve pain. Battlefield acupuncture (BFA), developed by a U.S. Air Force doctor uses needles that are inserted at various trigger points in the ear. In 2013, $5.4 million was awarded to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to teach BFA to healthcare providers in both the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs and assess it.  In light of the opioid epidemic, there is a strong need to decrease perioperative opioid use. Opioid use due to postoperative pain along with perioperative anxiety has been linked to increased length of hospital stay, increased morbidity and mortality, and ultimately higher healthcare costs.

Battlefield acupuncture was introduced into Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the last few years and in VHA, clinicians of various disciplines (MDs, DOs, PAs, nurse-practitioners), can currently obtain clinical privilege to provide it.

I received the Battlefield acupuncture training at John D. Dingell VA medical Center, Detroit and I was surprised with the outcomes of chronic pain patients. As an anesthesiologist I know pain after the surgery is common, often severe and largely unnecessary. I discussed these concerns with the surgeons and created the protocol to use BFA for general surgical patients and traditional acupuncture for hip replacement patients as an adjuvant to the standard protocol for acute post-surgical pain control.

Effective relief of postoperative pain is vital. Such pain probably prolongs hospital stay, as it can affect all the organ systems with side effects. Post op pain remains grossly under treated, with up to 70% of patients reporting moderate to severe pain following surgery.

Multimodal pain control not only can result in earlier discharge from hospital, but it may also reduce the onset of chronic pain syndromes.

2 studies performed TA (n=21), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=21).  BFA (n=28), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=36). Measured variables included post-operative opioid requirements, postoperative pain, the incidence of PONV, and patient satisfaction scores

Key conclusions use of Battlefield acupuncture and Traditional acupuncture reduced post-operative opioid requirements, post-operative pain scores (pain intensity) and increased patient satisfaction scores.  BFA also reduced PONV in patients.  

Opioid Epidemic for Pain Relief Has Waned But is Not Over

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Mario Moric M.S.
Department of Anesthesiology
Rush University Medical
Center Department of Anesthesiology

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

  • Prescription Pain Medicine (PPM) abuse has become a national problem and is now consider an epidemic. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication; enough for every American adult to have a bottle of opioids. 
  • With the recent public information campaign about the epidemic and the possible addictive nature of opioid prescription pain medications, the abuse rates have declined.  We examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) public data derived from a national survey. 
  • We have raw data (actual reported rates of PPM abuse, see attached image) and weighted data (corrected for the sampling design).  Looking at the raw data you can see that abuse rates for lifetime use (highest line), past year use (middle red line) and past month use (bottom green line) are all more or less stable until 1998 after which we saw huge increase. From 1998 to 2004 the lifetime use increased 186%, the past year use increased 193% and the past month use increased 183%.  Then the decrease, from 2009 to 2018 the lifetime use decreased 72%, the past year use decreased 90% and the past month use decreased 185%.
  • Using the weighted data, the past year use decreases 26% and was statistically significant, indicating a real world decrease in prescription pain medication abuse.
Prescription Pain Medicine

How Do Primary Care Physicians Handle Opioids For Patients Seeking Chronic Pain Relief?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Laura Militello
Unveil, LLC
Applied Decision Science, LLC

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Little is known about how primary care clinicians’ (PCC) approach chronic pain management in the current climate of rapidly changing guidelines and the growing body of research about risks and benefits of opioid therapy. When it comes to pain management, primary care clinicians (PCCs) find themselves in a somewhat unexpected role. Few conditions intersect with a range of specialties (i.e. mental health, orthopedics, endocrinology, etc.), disability, and aberrant behavior in the way that chronic pain does. PCCs find themselves in a position where they are asked to assess and diagnose sometimes vague and diffuse pain, and determine appropriate treatment often before the underlying cause of the pain is well-understood.

A recent cultural shift in the U.S. has created a situation in which a formerly default treatment, prescription opioid therapy, is no longer considered safe or appropriate for many patients with chronic pain. The addictive qualities and overall safety profile of opioid medications have come into sharp focus in recent years, leading to a push to reduce opioid use while also trying to achieve pain relief with little guidance for PCCs about how to manage this change in treatment plans. Others have documented the uneasiness many experience in managing patients with chronic pain. One participant in our study described the sense that opioid prescribing sometimes extends into unexpected and disconcerting territory in this way: “I never signed up to be an enforcer.” The complexity and moral uncertainty (6) associated with managing patients with chronic pain is an important backdrop for the findings from this study.

Wide Variation in Opioid Prescribing for Pain Relief Following Knee Arthroscopy

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Benjamin Ukert PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
Texas A&M

Mucio Kit Delgado, MD, MS
Department of Emergency Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The opioid epidemic has received a lot of attention and many state policies have been passed to address excessive opioid prescribing and highlight the dangers of opioid use initiation for those who have never been exposed to opioids. We also now know that most patients prescribed opioids for post-operative pain have significant quantities of pills leftover. One study showed that after knee arthroscopy, 50% of patients took no opioids, and 90% took less than 5 pills (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7190545/).

We thought to investigate whether overprescribing is still common, and asked the question whether we now observe low levels of prescribing following knee arthroscopy and whether there are differences in prescribing practices across states.

Factors Affecting Adults’ Choice of Opioids for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Didem Bernard, Ph.D.
Senior Economist
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: There had not been any studies on whether patient attitudes about health affect opioid use. A self-reliant health attitude is agreement with the following statements: “I do not need health insurance,” and “I can overcome illness without help from a medically trained person.”

We find that health-related attitudes affect both adults with and without chronic pain treatment similarly. Adults with self-reliant health attitudes are less likely to start and more likely to discontinue opioid use. Exercise is also associated with a higher probability of choosing no analgesic treatments over using opioids. Similarly, among adults who are using opioids for pain treatment, exercise is associated with a higher probability of discontinuing opioid use in the year following opioid initiation.

Joint Replacement: Have Opioid Prescription Patterns for Pain Relief Changed?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Rahul Shah
Medical Student
The University of Texas Medical Branch

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The United States has a unique overreliance on opioids for managing both acute and chronic pain, compared to many other developed nations. Opioid misuse and addiction frequently start with large doses of opioids prescribed after surgical interventions. This overprescribing contributes to the high rates of opioid use disorder and overdose deaths in the United States. There have been myriad interventions to curb opioid overprescribing, ranging from the DEA’s hydrocodone rescheduling law to opioid prescribing guidelines issued by the CDC, states and orthopedics specialty organizations. 

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