New study says many patients take opioid painkillers even after improvement in pain after surgery. The long term of use of potentially addictive drugs can have devastating consequences.
Thousands of people undergo hip and knee replacement surgeries every year and they have to use opioid painkillers to deal with the acute consequential pain and to ensure speedy recovery.
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But most of the people do not know how long painkillers should be taken and what kind of effects these drugs can have on their body. New research has found that a lot of patients continue to take opioids months after hip or knee surgeries even after observing improvement in the pain.
The findings are important because such surgeries have become far more frequent these days and are significantly contributing to the deaths related to opioid overdose. The recent death of iconic popstar Prince was also linked to decades-long opioid overdose.
For the study, researchers tracked more than 500 patients undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery. Patients were examined first, third and sixth month after the surgery to assess the potential devastating effects caused by the long-term use of powerful prescription opioid painkillers.
Researchers found that about 30% of patients were using potentially addictive opiod painkillers before the surgery. Of this group, 53% of knee replacement patients and 35% of hip replacement patients were have not stopped taking opioid painkillers even six months after the surgery.
Patients who were not taking opioids prior to the surgery were less likely to report persistent use of the drug. Among this group, only 4 percent of hip replacement patients and 8 percent of knee patients were taking narcotics six months after receiving the joint replacement. The long-term opioid use did not reduce even with improvement in pain after surgery.
“Persistent opioid use after knee or hip replacement surgery may be more common than previously reported. Importantly, continued opioid use is not necessarily related to pain in the affected joint,” Authors write in the study. “We hypothesize that the reason patients continue to use opioids may be due to pain in other areas, self-medicating affective distress and therapeutic opioid dependence.”
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Researchers are next planning to introduce interventions and both long and short term pain management to aid patients before and after joint replacement surgeries.