Chronic use of prescription painkillers, also known as opioids, among obese patients prior to bariatric surgery continues after surgery, according to a new Kaiser Permanente study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers examined the electronic medical records of 11,719 obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery between 2005-2009 at one of 10 U.S. sites in the Scalable Partnering Network. Participating patients were evaluated one year before and one year after surgery. Seventy-seven percent of the obese patients who exhibited chronic opioid use prior to surgery continued to use these medications chronically one year after their procedure. Chronic opioid use among these patients also increased by 13 percent the first year after surgery.
"Obese patients are often more sensitive to pain and tend to be prescribed increasing opioid doses in order to manage that pain," said lead study author Marsha A. Raebel, PharmD, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research.
In the year prior to their surgical procedures, 56 percent of the patients in this study reported no opioid use for pain management, 36 percent used some opioids and 8 percent used opioids on a chronic basis. Chronic opioid use was defined as having 10 or more prescriptions over at least 90 days or at least a 120-day total supply of medication sometime in the year prior to surgery. Some opioid use was defined as one to nine prescriptions over 90 days or less than a 120-day supply.