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Research Letter
November 2016

Risks of Developing Persistent Opioid Use After Major Surgery

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 4Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Surg. 2016;151(11):1083-1084. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.1681

Exposure to opioids is largely unavoidable after major surgery because they are routinely used to treat postoperative pain. Nonetheless, continued long-term opioid use has negative health consequences including opioid dependence.1 Patients and health care professionals are therefore concerned about long-term postoperative opioid use.2 There are limited data on the risk of previously opioid-naive individuals developing persistent postoperative opioid use. In a 2014 population-based cohort study, we found that 3% of previously opioid-naive patients continued to use opioids 3 months after major elective surgery in Ontario, Canada.3 Importantly, the risk of persistent opioid use over longer periods after surgery remains unclear. We therefore conducted a follow-up study to measure rates of ongoing opioid use up to 1 year after major surgery.

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