Many hip or knee replacement surgery patients may still be taking prescription opioid pain medications up to 6 months after surgery, notes a study published recently in PAIN.

According to the study, led by Jenna Goesling, PhD, from the University of Michigan, some patients may be continuing to use the opioid medications despite improvements in their hip or knee pain.

In the study, Goesling and her research team analyzed patterns of opioid use in 574 patients undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery (arthroplasty). Patients were followed up at 1, 3, and 6 months after surgery to assess rates of and risk factors for long-term opioid use.

About 30% of the patients were taking opioids prior to their joint replacement surgery. Of this group, 53% of knee-replacement patients and 35% of hip replacement patients were still taking opioids at 6 months after surgery, explains a media release from Wolters Kluwer Health.

Patients who were not taking opioids prior to surgery were less likely to report persistent opioid use: About 8% in the knee-replacement group and 4% in the hip-replacement group continued to take opioids at the 6-month follow up. Although these are relatively small percentages, this suggests that a portion of patients who were “opioid naïve” prior to surgery will become new chronic opioid users following arthroplasty, the release continues.

The researchers suggest that 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.

“We hypothesize that the reasons patients continue to use opioids may be due to pain in other areas, self-medicating affective distress, and therapeutic opioid dependence,” Goesling and her team write in the release.

“A long-term goal includes the development of interventions to aid physicians and patients with opioid cessation following surgical interventions” such as hip and knee replacement, they add.

[Source(s): Wolters Kluwer, Science Daily]