Opioid use prior to elective surgery is strongly associated with persistent use following surgery: an analysis of 14 354 Medicare patients

Max Catchpool, Josh Knight, Jesse T. Young, Philip Clarke, Michael J. Barrington, Peter F.M. Choong, Michelle M. Dowsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Persistent opioid use following total joint replacement (TJR) surgery is common; however, the association between pre-surgical opioid use and surgery type has not been established. The objective of this study was to determine the association between pre-surgery opioid use and persistent post-surgery opioid use in TJR patients compared to other elective surgical patients. Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study, of univariate and multinomial logistic regression of linked, de-identified Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule data, adjusted for perioperative opioid use, age and sex. Oral morphine equivalents daily doses (OMEDD) were calculated and opioid use was categorized into three mutually exclusive categories for each observation window: low (0–5 OMEDD), moderate (5–10 OMEDD), high (10+ OMEDD). Persistent opioid use was defined as opioid use between 180 and 270 days after the date of surgery. Results: Persistent opioid use was associated with older age, female gender and pre-surgery opioid use. There was no increased risk for persistent opioid use for TJR patients compared to other surgical patients. The intensity of pre-surgery opioid usage is strongly associated with persistent opioid use in all observed surgical patients. Conclusions: Our results suggest that many patients who use opioids prior to surgery will persist in their opioid use following surgery. No association was found between persistent opioid use and TJR surgery, but rather a risk reduction compared to other elective surgeries when associations with opioid use are controlled for. Primary care clinicians and surgeons should monitor the duration and dosage of perioperative opioid use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1410-1416
Number of pages7
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • general surgery
  • orthopaedic surgery
  • urology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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