Surgical professionals are growing more interested in finding ways to eliminate opioids from the post-op pain management equation and the stakes have never been higher. The national opioid overdose crisis has only worsened during the pandemic, creating a sense of urgency among physicians to find alternative ways to help their patients rest easy after surgery without exposing them to powerful painkillers that could lead to overuse or addiction.
Opioids have multiple risks in the perioperative setting beyond the dangers of dependence, including respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation and altered mental status, which can complicate recovery or prolong inpatient admission, says Jennifer Goins, MD, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Austin, Minn. “In addition to the acute effects, opioid exposure carries the risk of addiction and dependence, which has been seen at increased frequency with higher doses and prolonged use postoperatively.”
A team of physicians at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit assessed the effectiveness of using opioid alternatives to treat post-op pain. Their recent study, published in the journal Arthroscopy, involved 61 patients who underwent ACL repair with 30 receiving opioids for pain control and 31 receiving a non-opioid regimen involving the use of anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen and muscle relaxers.